What is art ?

Essay by EssaySwap ContributorCollege, Undergraduate February 2008

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Without knowing first what art is, we will not be able to tell what good is art. Having studied several different definitions of art, I am most satisfied with Tolstoy's definition of art from his essay "What is Art?" (pckt pg.21). According to Tolstoy, art is a form of communication, a vehicle which the artist can use to communicate his feelings and emotion; it is a "means of intercourse between man and man" (pckt pg. 23). Tolstoy's definition of art is hardly based on the beauty of the work, rather he focuses on the communicative qualities of the work namely, infectiousness, clarity and sincerity. Thus, any piece of work displaying all the three conditions in any varying degree, is considered a work of art. The quality of a work of art is determined by the degree to which it is sincere, clear and infectious. Using Tolstoy's given definition of art my essay attempts to discuss what art is good for, mainly with respect to ethics.

My stand on art is that it can be both for good and for bad when it comes to the question of ethics. For example, literature as art can act in both ways, which way it goes depends on both the writer and reader. Literature, since it's inception has always been a form of communication, and good literature be it the prose of Trollope, poems of Blake, the plays of Shakespeare or even political propaganda has always had the sincerity of its creator. Throughout history, literature has been able to bring a social, or moral message to the people. And good literature has always been infectious, at times even igniting reform and revolution. Without a doubt, literature brings to the reader or audience a circumstance we are unable to experience in real life...