In the attempts to define art you will find many theories and insights varying from one interpreter to another. From Plato to Picasso, realism to cubism – there lies no distinct line of defining words of art. However, one theory, by Leo Tolstoy, suggest it is not in our perception of art which defines a value in a piece, rather its ability to transmit emotion into viewers. .
Delving further in Tolstoy's book, What is Art, he explains that "art cannot be defined as an activity which produces beauty. Beauty cannot be defined objectively, and therefore cannot be used as a criterion to define what is, or is not, art. The aim of art is not merely to produce beauty, or to provide pleasure, enjoyment, or entertainment. Art is a means of communication, and is an important means of expression of any experience, or of any aspect of the human condition," (Scott). In short, Tolstoy believes that because "beauty" is subjective, the value of art is determined by its ability to infect viewers with human emotion and experience. Ultimately, Tolstoy's definition of art relies on function and infectiousness. .
"The Function of art is the transmission of feeling: 'If only the spectators or auditors are infected by the feelings which the author has felt, it is art,'" (Banach). This is a crucial point in Tolstoys theory. In order to accept this definition one must understand the higher purpose in art which seeks to unify the harmonies present in human nature which coexist in emotions and the creations of art. Real art is the manifestation of the human experience – because of its abstractness, art is only means of capturing the intangible concepts of emotions and feelings. Art that employs fluid emotions are what Tolstoy would define as true art. .
Now having a better understanding of Tolstoy's theory it's important to see the definition applied to works of art.