Transmitting Emotion

Art is the activity by which a person, having experienced an emotion, intentionally transmits it to others.

– Leo Tolstoy


The person who can communicate his emotions to the souls of others is the artist.

– Alphonse Mucha


There are a few corollaries to this conception of art-making. The artist must truly feel something for art to be possible. Charles Hawthorne said, “If you are not going to get a thrill, how can you give someone else one?”

This definition of art doesn’t concern itself with the formal qualities of the work. […] it simply has to evoke in the viewer the emotion that originally drove the creator. The artist isn’t the only one who matters. The viewer is part of the equation. Art can’t just be an isolated expressive activity that one person does to amuse himself. The success of art can be measured by the strength of its effect on the audience. […]

This notion of art ruled most of the 18th and 19th centuries until it was swept away by aestheticism and modernism. […] In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, the definitions of art have been thorougly deconstructed. I believe we need to go back and dust off early ideas that lay behind the great masterpieces we admire from the past, and see if they still work for us today.

– James Gurney, “Transmitting Emotion”