Upton Sinclair — Mammonart — Ch. II cont. b. — Who Owns the Artists?

What is art? We shall give a definition, and take the rest of the book to prove it. We hope to prove it both psychologically, by watching the art process at work, and historically, by analyzing the art works of the ages. We assert:

Art is a representation of life, modified by the personality of the artist, for the purpose of modifying other personalities, inciting them to changes of feeling, belief and action.

We put the further question: What is great art? We answer:

Great art is produced when propaganda of vitality and importance is put across with technical competence in terms of the art selected.

As commentary we add that whether a certain propaganda is really vital and important is a question to be decided by the practical experience of mankind. The artist may be overwhelmingly convinced that his particular propaganda is of supreme importance, whereas the experience of the race may prove that it is of slight importance; therefore, what was supposed to be, and was for centuries taken to be a sublime work of art, turns out to be a piece of trumpery and rubbish. But let the artist in the labor of his spirit and by the stern discipline of hard thinking, find a real path of progress for the race; let him reveal new impulses for men to thrill to, new perils for them to overcome, new sacrifices for them to make, new joys for them to experience; let him make himself master of the technique of any one of the arts, and put that propaganda adequately and vitally before his fellows — and so, and so alone, he may produce real and enduring works of art.

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