Art is not, as the metaphysicians say, the manifestation of some mysterious idea of beauty or God; it is not, as the aesthetical physiologists say, a game in which man lets off his excess of stored-up energy; it is not the expression of man’s emotions by external signs; it is not the production of pleasing objects; and, above all, it is not pleasure; but it is a means of union among men, joining them together in the same feelings, and indispensable for the life and progress toward well-being of individuals and of humanity.
What is art?
In Tolstoy’s writings one finds an ever-flowing sense of reality, both in the psychologic buildup of his characters and the inevitability of their surroundings. Reality is manifested to us in a exhuberantly natural way, as the paths on which he takes us through in his work intertwine and often lead to disillusionment and renewal, the chaotic vitality of life. Has death ever been described so incisively than in his works? And life been so vivid and centripetal?
As his views grew ever more juxtaposed and resentful towards his past work, even rejecting them at a point in his life, he grew more attached to a strict morality which led him to his vegetariansm and ascetic, simple life. It is in this later period where he wrote What is Art?, a work that, if sometimes radical and iconoclastic (particularly regarding Beethoven, Goethe Dante and the symbolists, among others), at the same time necessary to question and challenge our definition and appreciation of art in a wider spectrum and the relevance it has and should take. He provides an almost prophetic view on the future of art and humanity, warning us to take heed of the use of art as mere amusement, a cheap commodity that excludes and corrupts, serving only the mass producers of its trade.
For his birthday I decided on making a Tolstoy family favorite, Anke Pie. This peculiar name sprung about because of Sofya Tolstoya’s family doctor, Nikolai Anke. It was staple in all celebrations, so much that it was said by his son Ilya, “a birthday without Anke pie is the same as Christmas without a fir tree.”
It is a lemon-based dessert, with a deep citrus flavor that overrides the sweetness, one can’t help but imagining Tolstoy tending to his orchards or having an afternoon stroll around Yasnaya Polyana. A very evocative, tart delight.
Art is not a pleasure, a solace or an amusement. Art is a great matter. Art is an organ of human life, transmitting man’s reasonable perception into feeling.