Art, (man)splained

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Editor's comment

’Tooth blackening’
from ’Mirrors of the modern boudoir’
Utagawa Kunisada, ca. 1823

Wilde's book at

The preface was originally printed in Fortnightly Review, 1 March 1891, a year after the novel appeared in serial form. This version comes from an authorized, non-pirated, 1916 printing.

I have made one small change early in the text. See if you can spot it. ^^

Preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray

The artist is the creator of beautiful things.
To reveal art and conceal the artist is art's aim.
The critic is he who can translate into another manner or a new material her impression of beautiful things.
The highest, as the lowest, form of criticism
is a mode of autobiography.
Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault.
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.
There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral
book. Books are well written, or
badly written. That is all.
The nineteenth century dislike of Realism is the rage of Caliban seeing his own face in a glass.

Stephano, Trinculo and Caliban dancing.
Johann Heinrich Ramberg

Caliban is the one with the webbed feet. :)

The nineteenth century dislike of Romanticism
is the rage of Caliban not seeing
his own face in a glass.
The moral life of man forms part of the subject-matter
of the artist, but the morality of art consists
in the perfect use of an imperfect medium.
No artist desires to prove anything. Even
things that are true can be proved.
No artist has ethical sympathies. An ethical
sympathy in an artist is an unpardonable
mannerism of style.
No artist 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.
From the point of view of form, the type of all the arts is the art of the musician. From the point of view of feeling, the actor's craft is the type.

Just plain Bill (2006)
"A windowsill tuning fork"
Bon appetit !

All art is at once surface and symbol.
Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril.
Those who read the symbol do so at their peril.
It is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors.
Diversity of opinion about a work of art shows
that the work is new, complex, and vital.
When critics disagree the artist is in accord with himself.
We can forgive a man for making a useful thing as long as he does not admire it. The only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it intensely.

All art is quite useless.

—Oscar Wilde