Thursday, May 24

that simple feeling

What I am saying will be taken as a mad paradox, at which one can only be amazed, and yet I cannot help saying what I think—namely, that people of our circle, of whom some write verses, stories, novels, operas, symphonies, sonatas, paint various sorts of pictures, make sculptures, while others listen to them and look at them, and still others evaluate and criticize it all, argue, denounce, triumph, erect monuments to each other, and have done so over the course of several generations, that all these people, artists, public, and critics, with very few exceptions, have never, save in early childhood and youth, before they heard any reasoning about art, experienced that simple feeling, familiar to the simplest man and even to a child, of being infected by the feelings of another, which makes us rejoice over another's joy, grieve over another's grief, merge our souls with another's, and which constitutes the essence of art, and that therefore these people not only cannot distinguish true art from its counterfeits, but always mistake the worst and most false for genuine art, without noticing the genuine, because counterfeits are always more flashy, while true art is modest . . . The effect of the true work of art is to abolish in the consciousness of the perceiver the distinction between himself and the artist, and not only between himself and the artist, but also between himself and all who perceive the same work of art. It is this liberation of the person from his isolation from others, from his loneliness, this merging of the person with others, that constitutes the chief attractive force and property of art.

-- Leo Tolstoy What is Art?
Translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky