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What Is Art? - Leo Tolstoy, Aylmer Maude

Tolstoy has already succeed in defining What is NOT art

“ He who possesses Art and science “ said Goethe “ has religion , he who does not possess them , need religion “ from this point of view , I ask (the celebrated question ) If you have Mozart to listen to, why would you need God?

on the ground of these opinions I see art and religion are completely opposite to each other , and mortality has nothing to do with art

Tolstoy refuses all definitions of art as beauty and pleasure , on the ground that there is no objective definition of beauty and pleasure naturally presupposes the absence of idea of profit . For Tolstoy the aim of good art ( Christian art ) is to unite men with God and with one another , Oh Come on man !!!

Tolstoy sees the clear division of society ( which I mentioned above ) as upper class (unbelievers ) and lower class ( believers ) and he drives his theory theory “ which he has been thinking about along 15 years “ according to this division , art is a human activity consisting in this that one man consciously by means of certain external signs , hands on to others feelings he has lived through and that other people are infected by this feelings and also experienced them

Then he estimates art by the feeling it transmits or to us or “ infects “ us and valuing the feelings in art according to religious meaning of life , in term of good and bad art . So any work of art which is not “ good Christian art “ should be acknowledge to bad art deserving not to be encouraged but to be driven out , denied and despised m as being art not uniting but dividing people .

according to Tolstoy`s theory Rafael`s La Donna Velata is NOT an art


Symbolic paintings in which the very meaning of symbol is comprehensible to the people of certain circle in not art people say that works of art do not please the people because they are incapable of understanding them , but if the aim of art is to infect people with the emotion the artist has experienced how can one talk about not understanding ? .For Tolstoy art can not be explained by words , and should be comprehensible to the majority with no interpretation nor explanations , here I want to mention Raphael's School of Athens , which could not be comprehensible to the “ majority “ without explanations in words , to whose are “ well “ educated in philosophy or at least have little acknowledge about it .


He is also attacking pictures with voluptuous subjects and vicious feelings flowing from sex-love quite incomprehensible to the great majority of man kind , he said all that odious female nudity which fills all the exhibitions and galleries are bad art , so Bernini`s Rape of Proserpina is NOT an art


Even music and composers didn't escape from his religious fist works of Schumann , Berlioz , Liszt , Wagner are not art because their subject matter is devoted to the expression of feelings accessible only to people who have developed in themselves an unhealthy nervous irritation evoked by this exclusive artificial and complex music (I am fully in agreement with him that Wagner's music is not an art )

For Tolstoy Schumann's Piano Concerto Op.54 is NOT an art

Berlioz's Symphony Fantasique is NOT an art

Liszt's Piano Concerto No.2, S.125 is NOT an art

He also attacks schools of art the teaching of schools stop there where art begins , the one thing these schools can teach is how to transmit feeling experienced by other artists in the way those other artists have transmitted . I am strongly radical to Academic art and see it as the highest accomplish of art in all times , according to Tolstoy's view , Fraternal Love for William Adolphe Bouguereau is NOT an art .


After all this injustice against art , Tolstoy answers his Question , What is Art ? as the “ good Christian art “ nothing else .