Designed by Piotrek Chuchla for The Noun Project

Art Collector designed by Piotrek Chuchla from the Noun Project

Over at Brain Pickings, we learned that Leo Tolstoy believed that art was a form of consciousness and a mode of communication. In this vein, you can tell the quality of art based on its ability to infect the viewers with the same feelings the artist felt while creating. In his own words:

The stronger the infection, the better is the art as art, speaking now apart from its subject matter, i.e., not considering the quality of the feelings it transmits. And the degree of the infectiousness of art depends on three conditions:

  1. On the greater or lesser individuality of the feeling transmitted.
  2. On the greater or lesser clearness with which the feeling is transmitted.
  3. On the sincerity of the artist, i.e., on the greater or lesser force with which the artist himself feels the emotion he transmits.

The more individual the feeling transmitted the more strongly does it act on the receiver; the more individual the state of soul into which he is transferred, the more pleasure does the receiver obtain, and therefore the more readily and strongly does he join in it.

We’ve talked before about genuineness being a key factor in your work succeeding, but the way Tolstoy phrases it is hard to beat. Read the rest of his thoughts on rating quality of art on Brain Pickings.

  • Elden Dale Golden

    The problem with Tolstoy is that he explicitly limits “good art” to art that conveys a Christian message. Another problem is his requirement that the “meaning” be instantly apparent to anyone who sees the art, regardless of their exposure or experience, which limits art to very simplistic, uncomplicated, and clear messages. It limits, if not eliminates, any sophistication or complexity. It also eliminates art that asks questions rather than conveys a didactic message. That said, every time I go back to his book “What is Art” I am impressed again by the clarity of his argument and the elegance of his prose.

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