“And it is upon this capacity of man to receive another man’s expression of feeling and experience those feelings himself, that the activity of art is based.” Tolstoy, What Is Art #5
Tolstoy speaks about the infectiousness of art as it relates to the union of man to man. If the work of art does not create a union of feeling between the viewer and the artist, regardless of the feelings be good or bad, it cannot dare to call itself art. The test of infectiousness can be conducted by the meeting of three conditions: the individuality of the feeling, the clearness of the feeling and the sincerity in which the artist felt the feeling. If these three conditions are not met, and there is no union between the viewer, the artist and the others who have looked upon the work, then the subject cannot begin to reach the definition of true art.
Like Aristotle, Tolstoy speaks on art as if it is reflective of universal truths, and yet it needs to reflect the universal truth that art is the greatest form of communication among man. The reason for this may as well be that feeling is the great equalizer among man, capable of bringing together bands of revolutionaries and villains alike. All action must have feelings behind it to be considered valid, and the same can be said of art. The feelings invoked must create some kind of bond between the artist and the viewer, even if only for a moment – a bond formed on the basis of feelings can be considered the strongest bond of all.
Just look at all the people who take vows because they share a bond over their feelings of love for the other.
The decision of art as art based on its ability to create shared feelings within men is indeed a useful tool for evaluating art. Communication is the greatest tool of man, capable of starting or ending wars, creating or destroying relationship, and being the difference between life and death. Therefore if a piece of art must be judged solely on its capability to create a link of communication between man and man, then so be it. Regardless of the feeling being a good one or not, you and the artist both felt the same thing. That’s good art.
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