Comparing Texts: The Art's Question

Freshman (College 1st year) ・Art ・MLA ・1 Sources

Tolstoy focuses on the nature and position of art, explaining the manner in which it can depict moral values. Basically, he demonstrates beauty the usage of aesthetic theory. Tolstoy states that it is hard to define splendor in an objective manner; hence it can't be relied on as the basis to describe it. In essence, based on aesthetic theory, artwork is not simply meant to create beauty, pleasure or entertainment. It is rather a communication platform that varieties a useful channel of expressing an experience or different issues of human conditions. For instance, Tolstoy alleges that “a man suffers expressing his suffering by groans and spasms, and this suffering is transmits itself to other…..” (41). The ability of a person to receive another individuals feelings, and experiences that define art.

Being an expression of feelings and experiences helps the audience to share the very feelings or experience. Tolstoy asserts that feelings may be strong, weak, good, bad, or an admiration triggered by a beautiful arabesque, is all art (42-43). Art is viewed as a contradiction to the common perception of the present-day that believes that art is good as long as it gives pleasure or beauty, which is mistaken (Tolstoy 45). Moreover, a good art has not only form but also content that is related to feelings they trigger. On the other hand, bad art is repetitious, or unsophisticated. Therefore, a useful attribute of art is its genuineness. A true artwork depicts feeling and original views. The major feelings that art can depict are associated with religious sensitivity.

Similarly, aesthetic theory presents the basis of excluding a number of arts as good art since good art should portray the particular religious experience. With respect to aesthetic theory, Tolstoy states that Bach and Mozart is a good art while Baudelaire and Mallarmé, poetry as bad art. This aesthetic theory makes it necessary to consider the question of whether aesthetic values are the same as moral and social values. Tolstoy excludes many forms of art from what he considers to be "good" art because he believes that "good" art must communicate some form of religious experience.


This essay is a critical exposition that evaluates art. Tolstoy presents useful information about art. However, it is appropriate to allege that art cannot be described on its ability to portray beauty and form; rather it can be described based on its efficacy in communicating aspects of morality. According to Tolstoy, aesthetic qualities are expressed using moral values. To respond to the issue of comparing texts in arts, Tolstoy’s aesthetic theory and Saint George slaying the dragon are used. The essay seeks to determine whether or not Saint George slaying the dragon painting confirms to what is art.

Analysis of the Painting

While the scene in the painting is arid with rocky areas, the Saint Gorge is almost killing the dragon using the lance. The frightened dragon and horse depict dramatic attributes of this scene, which creates tension between the art and the audience. For Saint George, fear is worthless; his face is calm as well as etherealized. Bones are scattered all over the ground and on top of the rock, there is a princess who appears to be praying of something to that effect. The horrific emotions that the painter creates, in which Saint George is trying to slay the dragon depicts good art in the words of Tolstoy because of the juxtaposition between the tranquility of the scene on the one hand and a scuffle on the other. The dragon, on the other hand, is also reacting to the attack or excruciating pain.

The wavy dragon’s tail is completed by a crevice in the rocks and in the background, there is a royal castle. The valley divides the background and foreground; the castle seems to be placed lower compared to the battle ground. Much as these spaces represented in the artwork, the castle preserves the decorative and homogenous characteristics of the scene while the foreground is portrayed in expressive ways. For instance, light is depicted by sand, rocks, belly and skin of the dragon, armor and precious stones. Consequently, composition relies on Saint Gorge’s spear while the vertical lines link the dragon’s eyes, the horse, and the princess. Nonetheless, this piece of art is fascinating since it presents some of the qualities of art as defined by aesthetic theory.

To recognize how Saint George slaying the dragon is similar to aesthetic theory, there is a need to focus on good and bad art. For that reason, the focus is on how Tolstoy defines good and bad art. Good art is and understandable whereas bad art is incomprehensible. Bad art attempts to limit itself to a certain group of audience, obscure and incomprehensible to an individual not related to that audience. On the other hand, good art communicates its representation to many individuals as it portrays its representation in an easy way to comprehend. In other words, good art has intelligible content that people can emotionally attach to it (Tolstoy 132).

An artist that uses such artistic approach attracts the audience attention, an aspect that aesthetic theory supports indicating that a good artwork must be recognized by all. Additionally, Tolstoy contends that if an art is not comprehensible, unintelligible feelings of an individual can be regarded as an “art” (45). In line with the aesthetic theory, this art associated with feelings of a person depict human realities. Moreover, according to Tolstoy, good art contains content and form that unite feeling and concepts it symbolizes while bad art does have unity of feelings and it pretentious (133). As a matter of fact, present-day art makes that audience to see art as good if it presents beauty. Apparently, this is not correct in the spectacles of Tolstoy as it repudiates art since it hinders crucial communication channel.

According to Tolstoy, initially, humans feared art as they though it could cause corruption, which banned art. Currently, they fear being denied the pleasure associated with a piece of art. The latter is grosser compared to the former and its effects are considerably adverse (45). Tolstoy asserts that the important thing about a piece of art is sincerity element. A genuine art should portray feelings and thoughts. The main feelings that a piece of art can depict is religious perception. This is clearly demonstrated by the princess praying on the rock.

While the scenery background appears calm, the scuffle between Saint George and the dragon happens out of the blues. According to Tolstoy's theory of art, the unexpected event creates not only suspense, but it is also perplexing, which in turn makes it good art.

Again, the fact that Saint George is riding on the horse, shows perhaps that the dragon poses a serious danger. It also shows that Saint George would only slay the dragon through some surprise of sorts. Such that before it realizes, it would be struck. Tolstoy asserts that everyone can express religious feelings. Therefore, art is universal as long as it reflects religious thought (44). The religious thought depicted by art is that wellbeing of people is determined by social harmony and comprehensibility.

What seems obvious is that Saint George won the fight. From a religious point of view, the juxtaposition between violence and peace evident in the painting resonates with Tolstoy view of art. What makes this painting to achieve the credentials of good art is where good overcomes evil. The good aspect is represented by the saint who slays the dragon that represents evil. A genuine piece of art must, therefore, be universal and demonstrate feeling that people should respect, understand one another and share the feelings. Furthermore, according to Tolstoy’s art depicts the independent nature of understanding Christianity.

Even though he attempts to describe a universal art as an inclusion, the aesthetic theory inadequately captures his theory of morality, hence describes the art of exclusion. He eliminates different types of art he believes are universal since the universality of art should adhere to principles are not strictly aesthetic, though moral. The painting goes ahead to underpin Tolstoy perception of art on many fronts. For one, the backdrop of the painting is certainly calm and serene, and yet the attack happens out of the blues, an aspect that generates a huge surprise.

Individuals are used to understanding art based what they hear or see in exhibitions, and concerts. Nonetheless, this is the smallest component of art that individual interact on a daily basis. Human life is occupied by different artworks like it is in the case of Slaying the dragon, the beautiful princess is adorned with a beautiful green dress, and ornaments. These are artistic works. Therefore, in the limited perspective, not all human activities transmit feelings, however the only part that they attach special focus (Tolstoy 44). From the look of things, it appears like the dragon had emerged from the woods, and the woman on top of rock might have scampered for safety. This evokes the feelings of life and death, which is scary, especially when you encounter a monster that has the ability to fly.

In most cases, the focus is given to people that transmit the feelings from religious perception whilst the small component of art they particularly call art, attach it to detailed representation of the word. As an expression of feelings and experience to the audience, they can share the feelings; it does belong to any specific class. Limiting art to certain class means denying it to a certain class. As a result, Tolstoy rejects the assertion that art is important to a specific class because this is not only a false impression but also decadence in art.

The broken lance on the ground shows how tough the scuffle was. It also demonstrates that the dragon was not a pushover. However, the spear that penetrates the dragon’s neck evokes fear on the part of the audience; however, it makes it good art because Saint George is not affected by the groaning dragon. Much as good and bad art are defined based on aesthetic theory, Saint George slaying a dragon shape this difference. That is, the art employs universality aspect, such that it is essential to every aspect of the human situation. This artwork also depicts feelings as well as thoughts that humanity experience. At the first glance of these artworks, everything is symbolic.

The golden rope strapped around the horse and the armed warrior evokes strong feelings to do with the close attachments between the dragon and the warrior. Again, the use of white color to paint the horse is symbolic in some sense. While the white color symbolizes peace or something more positive, its application is contradicted because King George is on a different mission; to slay the dragon.

However, when examining the painting, one wonders what may have that would then lead to a scenario where Saint George would then want to slay the dragon. An open mouth, for instance, would imply that the dragon was groaning from the pain of a sword. To the audience, this agonizing moment for the dragon would evoke fear, courage, and determination. This conforms to the arguments of Tolstoy in his definition of what good art is. On the other hand, the face of Saint George appears frozen, however, the white horse is dynamic and at the center of the painting. The horse makes a pleasant eye contact with the spectator. This is the height of good art as far as Tolstoy definition is concerned.


In the end, based on this artwork it is clear that Saint George slaying a dragon represents Tolstoy’s aesthetic theory and depicts the reality of human feelings and thoughts. Nonetheless, Tolstoy’s states that art cannot be defined as an activity that generates beauty. It is rather complex to describe beauty in an objective way and hence, it cannot be the basis for describing what art is or not. This evident in the painting in which the dragon is seriously injured appear tense and scary. However, its emerald body is analogous to the women on top of the rock, an aspect that shows some association between the dragon and the lady. On the contrary, it is different from the horse that is painted in white. Besides producing beauty or feelings, a piece of art is a communication platform for reflecting any experience of humanity (Tolstoy 134).

Works Cited

Tolstoy, C.F. What is Art? Translated from the Russian Original by Aylmer Maude, embodying the author’s Last Alterations and Revisions, New York Thomas Y. Crowell & Co Publishers. 1898 Saint George Slaying the Dragon Painting

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