In The School of Athens, the fresco by Raphael, Plato and Aristotle stand side by side. Plato points to the heavens, to the ideal world of the Forms. Aristotle is shown with his hand open toward the earth. The painting accurately portrays the difference between Plato and Aristotle. It's a difference that shows up in their approaches to the arts.
Aristotle had a more sympathetic interest in art then did Plato. Aristotle, believing that the Universal Forms exist only in particular things, felt that the artists are dealing directly with the universal when they study things and translate them into art forms. For this reason, Aristotle affirmed the cognitive value of art, saying that since art does imitate nature, it therefore communicates information about nature.
In addition to cognitive value, art has in Aristotle’s view considerable psychological significance. For one thing, art reflects a deep facet of human nature by which people are differentiated from animals, this being their implanted instinct for imitation. Indeed, from earliest childhood learning takes place through imitation.
In addition to this instinct, there is also the pleasure that people feel upon confronting art. Thus, the reason people enjoy seeing a likeness is, that in contemplating it they find themselves learning or inferring, and saying perhaps, ‘Ah, that is he.’
With respect to art, Aristotle views are an immense advance on those of Plato. He distinctly recognized that its aim is simply to give immediate pleasure, and so it does not need to seek the useful like the mechanical arts. The essence of art, considered as an activity, Aristotle found in imitation, which, unlike Plato, he considers not as an unworthy trick, but as including knowledge and discovery.