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What is Art? (Roads Classics) Paperback – 1 May 2014

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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Roads Publishing; Reprint edition (1 May 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1909399256
  • ISBN-13: 978-1909399259
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 1.5 x 18.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 832,322 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About the Author

Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy was born in 1828, in the Tula province of Russia, into a family of Russian nobility. In the early 1850s, he spent some time in the army, where he began to write, and following travels in Eu¬rope he made a dramatic u-turn to become a spiritual anarchist. Most fa¬mous for the epic tomes Anna Karenina and War and Peace, he was also a philosophical and political writer of significant scope and influence.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Luc REYNAERT TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 16 April 2013
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In this rather astonishing text, Leo Tolstoy explains his vision on art and the aim of art.

Art, Religion, Classes, Professionalism
For Leo Tolstoy, art is a human activity which consists in conveying feelings (emotions) by external signs. Art doesn't consist in creating beauty or pleasure or in expressing emotions, but in infecting people with feelings. The worth of these feelings is determined by the religious consciousness (Christianity) of what is good or bad. The basic good is the brotherly life of all people. The purpose of art consists in transferring from the realm of reason to the realm of feeling the truth that people's well-being lies in being united and in establishing in the place of violence the Kingdom of God (love).
The upper classes, however, have lost faith. They reduced art to the conveying of feelings of vanity, amusement and sexual lust. Art became artificial, insincere and perverted. In one word, a harlot.
Sincerity was also significantly weakened when artists became professionals.

Artistic means and ends
Leo Tolstoy's `Christian' art can be religious (conveying feelings regarding God) or universal (conveying the simplest everyday feelings of life).
Deliberate concealments to arouse curiosity, revealing new aspects or angles on reality or putting question marks in a work are hindering, not helping, the artistic impression. Hermeneutic poetry is false art, while realism and naturalism are not more than counterfeits of reality.

Evaluation
Indeed, an essence of art is the conveying of feelings (emotions) into the reader, the listener or the spectator. But, religious consciousness (Christianity) cannot be the (sole) criterion to make a decision about good or bad art.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By justg on 31 Oct. 2011
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You definitely get more out of this book if you have a background understanding of philosophy, religion, psychology and sociology. It is hard going (not my usual bedtime read) and I've never read any of Tolstoy's books but was told that this was a good starter before progressing onto War and Peace. I found this really interesting, it changes your perspective on the way you view art in society forever. Like many things, it is socially constructed. Contributes to me developing a more objective opinion about the world in which we live in.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Pedro Silva on 4 Mar. 2012
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This little book is a jewel. A perfect text from a great writer. Tolstoy had the rare ability of writing about complex and deep things in a simple manner. In this book, he approaches one of the most undefinable subjects in an elegant and simple way. Indeed, "le génie de l'art est dans la simplicité".
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Swindon Ian on 14 July 2012
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Ok, so this is a bit of classic... but very much in the sense of something one might read purely for its historical interest. Tolstoy's own conception of art as the honest work of conveying information is woefully inadequate, but the book is worth reading just for his vitriolic (verging on manic) dislike of the music of Wagner.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By giorgiogalassi on 19 July 2012
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wonderful, on time and in perfect condition A++. I hope I had been sufficiently exhaustive. Jokes apart, great. Well, I am not repeating words am I? Apparently I am. Let's try now.
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