What is Art? – Leon Tolstoi

One of the most famous novelists of all time, Leo Tolstoy made some resounding contributions to the world of literature.  Many of his works are considered to be masterpieces and are widely studied even today.  His novels War and Peace and Anna Karenina are considered, with their vivid depiction of life in 19th Century Russia, as one of the very best examples of realist fiction.  His novels were not his only contributions to the world, however, for he was also an accomplished essayist and playwright, writing a number of essays on philosophy and art.

“What is Art?” became one of Tolstoy’s best-known musings on the nature of art.  He argues against the theories that art is merely defined by the good, truth, and beauty.  Tolstoy fully believed that much of the art of his day was corrupt and that artists had been seriously misled in their paths.  His platform was that true art needed to connect the artist and the audience through a special emotional bond, which would continue to live on within the members of the audience.  By relating a specific emotion through the work of art, a true artist could inspire that emotion within the others and by this virtue the act becomes true art.

Tolstoy’s views on art expanded into his morality, however.  He considered good art to be something, which inspired feelings of the unity of brotherhood with one’s fellow man.  Bad art was something, which inhibited those feelings.  Therefore, in order to be good art, one’s work needed to bring feelings of unity and peace into the world.  All other forms were merely chaotic and bad art.

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