Sunday, November 24, 2013

What is Art? Why Should You Care?

By JccKeith

There for a while, when I was writing regularly on Sundays, I would post a picture for Sunday Art.  I was going to do the same today but decided I might chat for a minute about art instead.  What exactly is art and why should you care about it?

I thought I might inquire as to Google's opinion on art and I discovered instead, Leo Tolstoy's opinion on art.  For anyone not familiar with Tolstoy, he was a famous Russian author of things like War and Peace and Anna Karenina  to name a few.  Here is the wikipedia excerpt about Tolstoy's essay entitled What is Art:

 "What is Art?" 1897 is an essay by Leo Tolstoy in which he argues against numerous aesthetic theories which define art in terms of the good, truth and especially beauty.  In Tolstoy's opinion, art at the time was corrupt and decadent, and artists had been misled.

First, let me say that when I looked up the actual essay (which is in the public domain) it was listed as having first been published in 1896 not 1897 and it was first translated from Russian in 1899.  Not that those specifics matter all that much.  My question was more with wikipedia's statement that the essay was about Tolstoy saying art at the time was corrupt and decadent.  Maybe it is but Tolstoy does a great job of defining what art is aside from any negative opinion.

Here is a quick couple of excerpts from the essay:

"Art begins when one person, with the object of joining another or others to himself in one and same feeling, expresses that feeling by certain external indications."

Now honestly, that sentence for me was a little tough to grasp so for those like me, let me translate what he is saying:

 "Art is where a person uses some media to express a feeling and hopes that those vieiwing/hearing/experiencing the  media feel the feeling  he/she intended to express".

The second excerpt is as follows:

"The feelings with which the artists infects the others may be most various - very strong or very weak, very important or very insignificant, very bad or very good: feelings of love for one's own country, self-devotion and submission to fate or to God expressed in a drama, raptures of lovers described in a novel, feelings of voluptuousness in picture, courage expressed in a triumphal march, merriment evoked by a dance, humor evoked by a funny story, the feeling of quietness transmitted by an evening landscape or by a lullaby, or the feeling of admiration evoked by a beautiful arabesque - it is all art."

For those who need that translated as well:

"The feelings with which the artists affects the others vary."  That's pretty much the gist of it.

So let's get back to what art is and why you should care.  I think Tolstoy defined it right on about art being an expression of feeling in some media form.  Art can also be meant to express an opinion on something or make a statement about something.  Now will everyone be able to figure out what the feeling, opinion or statement is just by hearing/viewing/experiencing the art - well of course not.

Personally I think some art is easier 'to get.'  For me, I can go to a museum and see modern art and feel totally clueless about what the artist was trying to convey.  Does it make the art less valuable because I don't get it - no.  Art is a valuable part of any culture because it is another method through which history is recorded.  The thoughts, the feelings and the happenings of a civilization are recorded in the art its artists produced at that time.

Art can show what was valued at particular times throughout human history.  It provides a view into how people expressed themselves and why.  It is a window into the souls of those individuals living at the time the art was created.


So to sum it all up: Art is a feeling/opinion/statement expressed in some media form whether it is paint, music, writing, pottery, acting, whatever.  It is important because it is a record of the culture in which it was created.

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