What Is Art, by Leo Tolstoy

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Leo Tolstoy is best known for his epic novels War and Peace and Anna Karenina. He was a novelist and moral philosopher who studied and wrote about good and bad in relation to human life.

Tolstoy tells us in his book, “What Is Art”, that “Becoming ever poorer and poorer in subject-matter and more and more unintelligible in form, the art of the upper classes in its latest productions has lost all the characteristics of art and has been replaced by imitations of art.” He refers to this as “the perversion of our art.”

He defines art as anything that communicates emotion, rather than beauty: "Art begins when a man, with the purpose of communicating to other people a feeling he once experienced, calls it up again within himself and expresses it by certain external sign.”

Tolstoy wrote about the art of the future rejecting that is would be just a portion of highly refined art that only might appeal to the very enlightened but instead that it would evolve to art that is chosen from that known to all humanity, not just the upper classes, and would transmit feelings embodying the highest principles. This willingness to divide art into good art with morality being a judgement is a big step for defining art.

These conclusions shocked both his critics and admirers as attacked and rejecting cherished beliefs, institutions and established values, religious images and practices.

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Quotes

"A real work of art destroys, in the consciousness of the receiver, the separation between himself and the artist." ...

.Art is not a handicraft, it is the transmission of feeling the artist has experienced.

Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.

The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.

All happy families resemble one another, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

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