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What is Art



The art of light

Share your thoughts about these discussion questions with other students in the Tampa Bay area. These questions pertain to the information located on the NIE Lights on Tampa Web page; click on the "Art" tab for more information.

Respond to these questions in relationship to the Lights on Tampa installations. Please let us know which question you are responding to in your posting.

1. Tolstoy characterizes art in terms of the relationship of the observer/perceiver both to the artist and to others who perceive the work. What is the nature of that relationship?

2. He believes that art is an important condition of human life, as it is used to communicate human feelings or emotions. What are examples of this communication? Precisely how does this communication work, according to Tolstoy? What is needed for successful communication of emotions through art?

3. We communicate our feelings and emotions in ways other than art. What are examples of some of those other ways? What is unusual about the communication through art?

4. This artistic communication uses "external signs," according to Tolstoy (#11). What might be examples of these "signs." How are the "signs" used by artists different from, say, traffic signs or directional arrows in a public building? How is this "communication" with "external signs" different from "expression" with "external signs"? (#12)

5. Art is not about the production of "pleasure," Tolstoy claims. Use the "find" command on your browser (or word-processing program) to search for the passages where he refers to "pleasure." What does he seem to mean by "pleasure"? Is he consistent in these passages in his usage of "pleasure"? What does he seem so hostile to this as a way of understanding art?

6. Tolstoy lists several other proposals for understanding art that he rejects. (#12) Does his proposal seem more compelling than those he rejects? Why?

7. Tolstoy seems to accept a hierarchy in which there is "art" of everyday life and higher art imbued with religious perception (#17-18). Is this a plausible distinction? Is it consistent with distinctions you make? Does it explain the cultural importance of art?

8. Tolstoy discusses Plato's views on art (#19-23). What elements of Plato's view does he consider he? Does he agree with Plato on any of his views on art? With what does he disagree?

9. How does Tolstoy propose that we distinguish "real art" from "counterfeit art" (#24-28)? Is this a workable test? What problems do you see with it? Can you think of counter-examples that would challenge his view of how to make this distinction?

10. Tolstoy uses the test of infectiousness, not only as a descriptive measure for what should count as art, but also as a standard for good art (#28-32). What does he mean by this standard? How does he suggest we apply this test to evaluate art? Is this a useful proposal for evaluating the quality of art? If you disagree with this proposal, how would you challenge it?

11. How does "sincerity" function in Tolstoy's theory? Use the "find" command to consider all the passages where he refers to "sincerity." Is this a useful proposal for understanding and appreciating art? Can we ever be deceived about an artist's sincerity? How would Tolstoy respond to such a concern about deception?

12. Tolstoy values what he calls "peasant art" because of its sincerity (#35). Compare Tolstoy's discussion of "peasant art" with the praise by Clive Bell less than twenty years later of "primitive art" (#16). Is their reasoning similar in any ways? How is it different? Do you think their praise of such art was coincidental?

[Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 12:15pm]


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