Making it still harder has been an obsession with incoherent and confusing art over the past century… something that Salvador Dali once called, "the cult of strange."
And so most of us have had a hard time coming to grips with art. What, after all, is the point of a painting that provides no coherent image? And why would people consider a signed urinal great art? (Yes, that's a real example.)
We can begin our examination with a passage from Leo Tolstoy's What Is Art?:
Art is a human activity consisting in this, that one consciously, by means of certain external symbols, conveys to others the feelings one has experienced, whereby people so infected by these feelings, also experience them.
In the same book, Tolstoy also writes,
By words one transmits thoughts to another, by means of art, one transmits feelings.
Art, then, is a means of communication. And by implication, the communication of something worthwhile. A good painting, for example, can give you the sense of being in a certain place at a certain time, or it can give you the feeling of what it was like, or would be like, to be in that situation.