Tolstoy's "What Is Art?" Essay

Tolstoy's "What Is Art?" Essay

Length: 951 words (2.7 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Better Essays

Open Document

Essay Preview

Leo Tolstoy compares art to speech by mentioning that art is a form of communication. The communication that Tolstoy writes about in “What Is Art?” is of two types, good and bad. According to Tolstoy, good art is what carries humanity towards perfection (Tolstoy 383). It is this movement forward in humanity that is emphasized by Tolstoy. Tolstoy informs his readers that speech is what teaches knowledge from human history, but art is what teaches the emotions of mankind’s past. As knowledge becomes obsolete in society it is replaced by new and more relevant information. Tolstoy asserts that emotions act the same way. The purpose of art is to express new and more relevant feelings to humankind. The new feelings are for the betterment of humanity, allowing a progression of morality in society.
It is instructive to the reader to point out that Tolstoy's usage of the word “art” speaks of a wide sphere of artistic expressions. Among these expressions are literature, poetry, painting, sculptures and music. According to Tolstoy, it is art that brings mankind together and allows for the commonalities in humanity to be emphasized. Tolstoy describes these commonalities as man's need for union with God and with one another. Good art, for Tolstoy, is art that expresses itself through religious perception. This religious perception is how the culture of its current time views its most important values. This is similar to William Wordsworth’s ideas for literature. It is important to Wordsworth that the author of the work express emotions that the common man can relate to. It is fundamental to Tolstoy, as with Wordsworth, that the work be accessible and understandable to all people. This is why Tolstoy supposed that music is the...

... middle of paper ...

...t. It is important that art be simultaneously accessible and enjoyable to the common man. According to Tolstoy, a work of art need not follow all of the guidelines that have been given in the past, such as Aristotle's teaching on the Unities, as long as it carries the principles of instruction and enjoyment. Tolstoy believes that the greatest of unities are the unity found in God and with one's neighbor. The purpose of art is to highlight and influence this unification.

Works Cited
Tolstoy, Leo. “What Is Art?” Kaplan, Charles, and William Anderson. Criticism: Major
Statements. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2000. 382-393. Print.
Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. “Biographica Literaria” Kaplan, Charles, and William
Anderson. Criticism: Major Statements. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2000. 261.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Tolstoy's Philosophy of Art Essay examples

- Tolstoy's Philosophy of Art Tolstoy approaches art with a very specific and narrow view of what is real and what is counterfeit in classifying artwork and what makes a work of art good or bad. Tolstoy believes that a work of art can be classified as "real" if and only if "one man consciously by means of certain external signs, hands on to others feelings he has lived through, and that others are infected by these feelings and also experience them" (10). He believes that art can only be defined as real by its ability to make the audience feel what the artist had intended to convey with his/her artwork....   [tags: Visual Arts Paintings Art]

Better Essays
548 words (1.6 pages)

Essay about Tolstoy's War and Peace

- Tolstoy's War and Peace Summary War and Peace tells the story of the Rostovs, an upper-class family in Russia, and several people associated with them. It follows the characters through fifteen years during the Napoleonic Wars, from 1805 to 1820. It gives a fictional description of the events in the life of the Rostov family as well as some of the historical events of the time. Analysis Tolstoy is regarded by some as the greatest writer about war (Bayley 16). He includes details in the military scenes of War and Peace....   [tags: Tolstoy War Peace Essays]

Better Essays
933 words (2.7 pages)

Essay on Different Philosophies Of Art And Art

- Subsequent to the study of different philosophies of art, as well as completing projects asking for personal preference in art as well as objective “fine art,” a personal philosophy may, by necessity, include subjective and objective facets. In determining what fine art is, the quality of universality is important. There also does not have to be a traditional presentation of beauty for a work of art to be fine art. Contrary to R. G. Collingwood’s philosophy, for fine art the culture and setting in which art is created should not matter, because if art is universal and timeless, meaning endures outside of where and when it was created....   [tags: Art, Aesthetics, Meaning of life, Fine art]

Better Essays
1283 words (3.7 pages)

The Value, Ethics And Purpose Of Art Essay

- “True art is modest”: On Real Art in Tolstoy’s What is Art. For majority of people, cruising through a fine arts museum or gallery is nothing short of browsing through a textbook and failing to grasping knowledge of the content. A casual activity and check off ones list of to-dos, sometimes done just for the appearance it offers. Of that majority, one might look at a painting for a long while before connecting the uncommunicated dots from gallery label. But for the small remaining others, a trip to an art exhibition is a journey through emotions and feelings rendered by the artists of the particular works of art....   [tags: Art, Visual arts, What Is Art?, Arts]

Better Essays
1208 words (3.5 pages)

Food For The Soul By Leo Tolstoy Essay

- Food for the Soul People read for many reasons, some of which are to pass the time, to seek out new experiences, for the sheer pleasure of the language and for the quest of knowledge. Literature is an art, and like art can be very subjective. What one person or society values as good literature may not be looked upon in the same light by another person or society. Some literature transcends time, and will continue to be relevant hundreds of years after it is written, and some literature is relevant at the time it is written, however later may be largely forgotten....   [tags: Charlotte Perkins Gilman, The Yellow Wallpaper]

Better Essays
1141 words (3.3 pages)

The Functions Of Art And Language Essay example

- There are different philosophers argue on the functions of art and language serve on two different functions, or that they are the same function basically. Tolstoy claims that art and language are two separate activities with different functions. On the other hand, Collingwood states that art and language are more or less the same. In this essay, I will argue that both philosophers’’ theories are invalid, that art and language are two separate activities with different functions. Tolstoy, and Collingwood both make valid points throughout their theories but Tolstoy’s theory had a stronger position with my thought process....   [tags: Emotion, Feeling, Art, Human]

Better Essays
1541 words (4.4 pages)

The Science Of Aesthetics And The Theory Of Art Essay

- The science of aesthetics cannot be well-defined until a certain set of “rules” are distinguished. Only then, will a theory of art be able to be established that will satisfy a specific set of individuals. Even if a work of art depicts something absurd or uncommon, someone is bound to find enjoyment in it as every individual has different perceptions of what should be deemed “good” or “bad”. Once this absurdity has been acknowledged and accepted, a new theory will surely emerge. Tolstoy goes on to say that because the theory of art is founded on beauty, it will only satisfy a certain group of individuals....   [tags: Art, Aesthetics, Visual arts, Feeling]

Better Essays
997 words (2.8 pages)

The Great Works Of Art Essay

- Rich people need to be an option Imagine you have been walking for hours and experienced tiredness. You took a break and kept walking. While waiting to reach your destination, you come across something that’s really interesting that has been drawn against a wall. To see what it is, you accelerated your speed and looked at it. Until you remain comprehensible about the object. Art is something people understand evenly. Like Tolstoy mentioned in his book called What is art “great works of art are only great because they are accessible and comprehensible to everyone” (M....   [tags: Art, Arts, Understanding, The arts]

Better Essays
730 words (2.1 pages)

The Role of Women in Society According to Friedrich Nietzsche, Albert Camus, and Leo Tolstoy

- The Role of Women in Society According to Friedrich Nietzsche, Albert Camus, and Leo Tolstoy I am beautiful and mysterious. I take joy in the simple pleasures of life. I have no desires higher than appearance and beauty. I am intelligent, but there is no need for me to show my intellect. In fact, showing my intellect would ruin me; it would diminish my sexual desires and defy my beauty. My intelligence would destroy my desirability. I am filled with fear. It is this fear that defines my womanhood; this fear helps me fulfill my womanly role....   [tags: Feminism Roles Society Camus Tolstoy Essays]

Free Essays
1390 words (4 pages)

What is Art by Clutton Brock Essay

- What is Art by Clutton Brock The essay “what is art” is taken form the volume “essays on life” by clutton brock and was first published in the form of an article in the ‘times literary’ supplement of january 1924. “everyone now is thinking or talking about the nature of art and aesthetic experience” .clutton-brock begins his essay by stating the popular subject of discussion. This subject ;the nature of art and of beauty is simultaneously confusing as well as thrilling .the problem about the nature of art and aesthetic sense is so confusing that it is hard to pin point what the actual problem really is....   [tags: Visual Arts Paintings Art]

Free Essays
1045 words (3 pages)