For Nietzsche, art is innate to human nature, existing in two forms, the Dionysian and the Apollinian, the first favoring musical expression while the latter favors visual expression. This renders human creativity a mere reaction to the forces of nature, with the exception of Greek tragedy.
The first nature of creativity explored by Nietzsche is that which he refers to as the Apollinian, ascribing this nature as the source of our very dreams, as well as order (162-164). It is in dreams that humans receive understanding of the physical or the appearance of what is true as “…all forms speak to us…” and “…there is nothing unimportant or superfluous…” about the forms dreamt (163). While these forms may be true, for Nietzsche, they are only the partial truth, embodying the “…mere appearance…” of a thing and not its full truth (163). Opposed to the Apollinian aspect of creativity is the Dionysian aspect.
While the first aspect of creativity is orderly and perfect, the Dionysian is driven by the more base parts of human nature, with Nietzsche cites “…the narcotic draught…” or “…the potent coming of spring that penetrates all nature with joy” (164). The Dionysian is expressed through music and dance and taps into a more spiritual or supernatural truth (164-165). Of the Dionysian art, Nietzsche says “In song and in dance man expresses himself as a member of a higher community…he feels himself a god” (164-165). The Greek tragedy is a synthesis of these two aspects of creativity.
Of artists, Nietzsche–much like Plato–says that they are imitators, no matter if they subscribe to the Apollinian form of art or to the Dionysian, and even if they managed to unite the two in the form of Greek tragedy (165-167). The Greek tragedy can only be attained when an artist accepts and expresses both Apollinian art and Dionysian art as “The opposition between Apollo and Dionysus became…impossible, when similar impulses finally burst forth from the deepest roots of the Hellenic nature and made a path for themselves…” (166). Once the two natures are reconciled–with the Apollinian aspect tempering the impulses of the Dionysian–the form of the tragedy is reached (167). The synthesis of the two natures of creativity is an impressive accomplishment requiring that the Greeks had “…already reached the height of self-abnegation which seeks to express itself symbolically through all these powers…” (167). The Greeks had shed the idea that creativity was a product of man and so they were able to engage with it freely (167).
Nietzsche’s creativity is a sort of force found in each human, one aspect reflecting the order of the universe while the other representing the chaos of it. The greater artists, while still imitators, possess the ability to distance themselves from this force and utilize both aspects of it effectively.