Oscar wilde (Dublin, 1854 – Paris, 1900). “Those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are the cultivated. For these there is hope. They are the elect to whom beautiful things mean only Beauty ”. Main works.
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Oscar wilde(Dublin, 1854 – Paris, 1900)
“Those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are the cultivated. For these there is hope. They arethe elect to whom beautiful things mean only Beauty”
1880s: short stories (The Canterville Ghost, Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime, The Happy Prince and Other Tales)
novel(The Picture of Dorian Gray)
1890s: plays(Lady Windermere’s Fan, A Woman of No Importance, The Importance of Being Earnest)
“My life is like a work of art”
The Wildean dandy is an aristocrat whose elegance is a symbol of the superiority of his spirit;
He uses his wit to shock, and is an individualist who demands absolute freedom.
Wilde totally adopted “the aestethic ideal”, and lived the double role of the rebel and the dandy.
He soon became a fashionable figure both for his extraordinary wit and his foppish way of dressing.
He was most noted for his irony, his attitudes and his poses, and known as a great talker: his presence became a social event.
Art for Art’s Sake
“Life was meant for pleasure,
and pleasure was an indulgence in beauty”
The concept of “Art for Art’s Sake” was to Wilde a moral imperative, as he became a disciple of Walter Pater theory.
He believed that only “Art as the cult of Beauty” could prevent the murder of the soul.
Wilde perceived the artist as an alien in a materialistic world, who writes only to please himself.
His pursuit of beauty and fulfilment is the tragic act of a superior being inevitably turned into an outcast.
The artist is the creator of beautiful things.
To reveal art and conceal the artist is art’s aim.
They are the elect to whom beautiful things mean only Beauty.
No artist has ethical sympathies…
No astrist is ever morbid. The artist can express everything.
Thought and language are to the artist instruments of an art.
Vice and virtue are to the artist materials for an art.
All art is at once surface and symbol.
Is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors.
All art is quite useless.
A young man of great physical beauty named Dorian Gray is the subject of a painting by artistBasil Hallward.
At Basil’s, Dorian meets Lord Henry Wotton, and becomes enthralled by his world view. Espousing a new kind of hedonism, Lord Henry suggests that the only thing worth pursuing in life is beauty, and the fulfilment of the senses.
Realising that one day his beauty will fade, Dorian cries out, wishing that the portraitwouldage rather than himself. Dorian's wish is fulfilled, subsequently plunging him into a series of debauched acts.
The portrait serves as a reminder of the effect each act has upon his soul, with each sin being displayed as a disfigurement of his form or a sign of aging.
“Yes, he was certainly wonderfully handsome, with his finely-curved scarlet lips, his frank blue eyes, his crisp gold hair…all the candour of youth was there, as well as all youth’s passionate purity.”
“The studio was filled with the rich odour of roses, and when the light summer wind stirred amidst the trees of the garden there came trough the open door the heavy scent of the lilac, or the more delicate perfume of the pink-flowering thorn.”
“The sense of his own beauty came on him like a revelation”
“If it where only the other way! If it where I who was to be always young, and the picture who was to grow old! For that - for that – I would give everything! Yes, there is nothing in the whole word I would not give! I would give my soul for that!”
“But the picture?…It held the secret of his life, and told his story. It had taught him to love his own beauty. Would it teach him to loathe his own soul?”
The Allegorical meaning
The Picture of Dorian Gray is considered one of the last works of classic gothic horror fiction with a strong Faustian theme. It deals with the artistic movement of the decadents.
Dorian’s soul becomes the picture, which records the signs of the corruption, the horror and the sins concealed under the mask of Dorian’s timeless beauty.
The picture stands for the dark side of Dorian’s personality, his double.
The moral is that every excess must be punished and reality cannot be escaped.
The horrible, corrupting picture could be seen as a symbol of the immorality and bad conscience of the Victorian middle class, the bourgeois hypocrisy.
Finally the picture, restored to its original beauty, illustrates Wilde’s theories of art:
Art survives people, art is eternal.
Aestheticism and duplicity
Aestheticism is a strong theme in The Picture of Dorian Gray, and is tied in with the concept of the double life. Although Dorian is hedonistic, he always cares about his outward image and standing within Victorian society.
Wilde highlights Dorian's pleasure of living a double life, describing how Dorian looks at his portrait, and, when looking at the disfigurement of the portrait, "[grows] more and more enamoured of his own beauty, more and more interested in the corruption of his own soul."
“Dorian is both the criminal
and the aesthete combined in
This is perhaps linked to Robert Louis Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, which Wilde admired.
The division that was witnessed in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, although extreme, is evident in Dorian Gray, who attempts to contain the two divergent parts of his personality.
“It had been like conscience to him. Yes, it had been like conscience. He would destroy it…it would kill the past…it would killthis monstrous soul-life…he seized the thing, and stabbedthe piscture with it. There was a cry heard, adn a crash.”