Back to Tolstoy

So, back to Tolstoy for a moment. Tolstoy asserts that the question of Art is one which each and every conscientious artist must address by asking of themselves whether the effort being made is sufficiently important and worth the sacrifices which will be required by the construction of the art itself. This is why the question “What is art?” has especially important significance for the artist.

“But the ordinary man either does not know, or does not wish to know, all this, and is firmly convinced that all questions about art may be simply and clearly solved by acknowledging beauty to be the subject-matter of art. To him it seems clear and comprehensible that art consists in manifesting beauty, and that a reference to beauty will serve to explain all questions about art.

But what is this beauty which forms the subject-matter of art 1 How is it defined 1 What is it ?”

Excerpt From: Tolstoy, Leo, graf, 1828-1910. “What is art?.” New York : Funk & Wagnalls, 1904. iBooks.

At this juncture Tolstoy falls into a rather lengthy inquiry into aesthetics, (Αισθητική), taking us on a running tour through a series of touchstone synopsis of various views on beauty from Shaftesbury (1670 – 1713), Edmund Burke (1729-1797), Kant (1724-1804), Schiller (1759-1805), Fichte (1762-1814), Hegel (1770-1831), Schopenhauer (1788-1860), and a smattering of writers throughout this time frame, all adding up to the conclusion that there is no consensus to the question “What is art?,” other than the higher percentage went to those who referenced God over those who did not, leading to the observation by Theodor Adorno in 1969, “It is self-evident that nothing concerning art is self-evident.”

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