The conclusion to be drawn
Post #950 • February 1, 2007, 5:02 PM • 6 Comments
Tolstoy, from What Is Art?:
Of a speech it may be said that it is admirable, but incomphrehensible to those who do not know the language in which it is delivered. A speech delivered in Chinese may be excellent and may yet remain incomprehensible to me if I do not know Chinese; but what distinguishes a work of art from all other mental activity is just the fact that its language is understood by all, and that it infects all without distinction. The tears and laughter of a Chinese infect me just as the laughter and tears of a Russian; and it is the same with painting and music and poetry when it is translated into a language I understand. ... So that, if art fails to move men, it cannot be said that this is due to the spectators' or hearers' lack of understanding, but the conclusion to be drawn may and should be that such art is either bad art or not art at all. ...
The business of art lies just in this - to make that understood and felt which, in the form of an argument, might be incomprehensible and inaccessible. Usually it seems to the recipient of a truly artistic impression that he knew the thing before but had been unable to express it.