What Is Art?

By Leo Tolstoy
Translated by Aylmer Maude
Read by Geoffrey Blaisdell

6.53 Hours 07/23/2008 unabridged
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What Is Art? is the result of fifteen years’ reflection on the nature and purpose of art. Tolstoy claims that all good art is related to the authentic life of the broader community and that the aesthetic value of a work of art is not independent of its moral content. The book is noteworthy not only for its famous iconoclasm and compelling attacks on the aestheticist notion of “art for art’s sake” but even more for its wit, its lucid and beautiful prose, and its sincere expression of the deepest social conscience. Tolstoy is an author critics typically rank alongside Shakespeare and Homer. A sustained consideration of the cultural import of art by someone who was himself an artist of the highest stature will always remain relevant and fascinating to anyone interested in the place of art and literature in society.

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Summary

Summary

What Is Art? is the result of fifteen years’ reflection on the nature and purpose of art.

Tolstoy claims that all good art is related to the authentic life of the broader community and that the aesthetic value of a work of art is not independent of its moral content. The book is noteworthy not only for its famous iconoclasm and compelling attacks on the aestheticist notion of “art for art’s sake” but even more for its wit, its lucid and beautiful prose, and its sincere expression of the deepest social conscience.

Tolstoy is an author critics typically rank alongside Shakespeare and Homer. A sustained consideration of the cultural import of art by someone who was himself an artist of the highest stature will always remain relevant and fascinating to anyone interested in the place of art and literature in society.

Editorial Reviews

Editorial Reviews

“Eccentric and lucid, cranky and brilliant, funny and fierce.” New Criterion
“The effectiveness of What Is Art? lies not so much in its positive assertions as in its rejection of much that was taken for granted in the aesthetic theories of the time.” John Bayley, literary critic and former Warton Professor of English at Oxford
“What Is Art? itself is a work of science, though many passages, and even some whole chapters, appeal to us as works of art and we feel the contagion of the author’s hope, his anxiety to serve the cause of truth and love, his indignation (sometimes rather sharply expressed) with whatever blocks the path of advance, and his contempt for much that the ‘cultured crowd,’ in our erudite, perverted society, have persuaded themselves, and would fain persuade others, is the highest art.” Aylmer Maude, translator
“Infuriating, irresistible, aesthetically unaesthetic.” E. Lampert, New Essay on Tolstoy

Reviews

Reviews

Author

Author Bio: Leo Tolstoy

Leo Tolstoy (1828–1910) was born about two hundred miles from Moscow. His mother died when he was two, his father when he was nine. His parents were of noble birth, and Tolstoy remained acutely aware of his aristocratic roots, even when he later embraced doctrines of equality and the brotherhood of man. After serving in the army in the Caucasus and Crimea, where he wrote his first stories, he traveled and studied educational theories. In 1862 he married Sophia Behrs and for the next fifteen years lived a tranquil, productive life, finishing War and Peace in 1869 and Anna Karenina in 1877. In 1879 he underwent a spiritual crisis; he sought to propagate his beliefs on faith, morality, and nonviolence, writing mostly parables, tracts, and morality plays. Tolstoy died of pneumonia in 1910 at the age of eighty-two.

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Details

Details

Available Formats : Digital Download, Digital Rental, CD, MP3 CD
Category: Nonfiction
Runtime: 6.53
Audience: Adult
Language: English