What is Art by Leo Tolstoy Essay
After reading Tolstoy’s excerpt I started to understand that Tolstoy’s aesthetic view about the theory of art is one of a classic stance. He describes art in relation to how it can influence and be a form of an expression for moral values. Tolstoy believes that art is all about the demonstration of feelings and how people can be joined together to experience and share the emotions evoked through art. Tolstoy does not consider art as an art if it does not provoke feelings of joy, emotional or spiritual unification with another human being.
Art according to Tolstoy does not belong to a certain social class and is therefore universal. That is why he would not view any of his literary accomplishments as work of art (good art that is). Anna Karenina is not worthy because if fails to address the “infectiousness” that art needs to bring. If ordinary people like the peasants who have ordinary thoughts can not relate, feel or identify themselves with his writings, then Tolstoy’s works are not art. The author cherishes the religious and moral grounds of the peasants in the novel about Anna Karenina , however because of her adultery behaviour Tolstoy disqualifies the book as good art. He believes that art should be teaching us moral lessons and enriching our life experiences. Tolstoy’s concept of art is universal, which means that anyone can be touched by it, regardless of his social status or belonging. Art is universal because it conveys feelings and thoughts that are experienced by all human beings. Thus, if his novels only touch the higher class of society, they are not pure form of “good art”.
For Tolstoy, art should not be created only for its aesthetic purposes, for its own sake, but art should be created to enhance values I partially agree with the last statement. I think that art should be created for the sake of art, but it should certainly evoke positive or negative thoughts and emotions. Not all modern and contemporary art pieces impress me, even more so I find some of them too incomprehensible to relate to. But I would still call the art, even if I can’t understand it.
According to Tolstoy “bad art” is banal, repetitious, melodramatic and shallow. “Bad art” is also deprived of form, clarity and uniformity.
Tolstoy believes that all of us can relate and experience religious feelings, therefore are is also “universal” because it reaches us through its religious forms. It expresses harmony and well-being for humans and understanding between all people. Tolstoy also argues that good art must be religious and explains that from his standpoint his personal model is Christianity. I disagree with Tolstoy’s views that art can only be regarded if it carries religious connotations. His argument that art must conform to moral and religious values is very limited and we as contemporary society can not define art only from religious standpoint. I think that Tolstoy’s beliefs were influenced by the historic time he lived in and were ultimately coined by the social circles he witnessed and disliked.
Tolstoy, Leo N. What is Art? Translated by Almyer Maude. New York: MacMillan Publishing Company, 1960. Print