He had an ability to understand art and to imitate it faithfully, tastefully, and thought he had precisely what was needed for an artist. After some hesitation over what kind of painting he would choose – religious, historical, genre or realistic – he started to paint. He understood all kinds and could be inspired by one or another; but he could not imagine that one could be utterly ignorant of all the kinds of painting and be inspired directly by what was in one’s soul, unconcerned whether what one painted belonged to any particular kind. Since he did not know that, and was inspired not directly by life but indirectly by life already embodied in art, he became inspired very quickly and easily, and arrived as quickly and easily at making what he painted look very much like the kind of art he wanted to imitate.
—Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina, p. 319