With Columbus Day upon us -- amidst the sales, deals, and inevitable debates -- and Halloween fast approaching, it may be easy to lose sight of all the fantastic reasons to celebrate October. And I’m not talking about pumpkin drinks.
This week in history, the preeminent Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde was born -- on October 16, 1854. He would, it should be noted, eventually drop over half that name and simply go by "Oscar Wilde." Considering how extensively he is quoted even today, that is probably for the best.
Best known for witty, quippy turns of phrase, Wilde lived a life spanning the spectrum of highs and lows. Born to upper-crust, intellectual parents in Dublin, he was well-educated and fiercely intelligent. He moved to London almost as soon as he completed his schooling. It was there, working as a journalist among a fashionable circles of Londoners, where he gained his reputation for flamboyancy and pushing social norms.
In London, Wilde published most of his work -- everything from his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray to his most famous play The Importance of Being Earnest. He also infamously took a lover, Lord Alfred Douglas, whose father would be the root of Wilde’s own downfall. Wilde engaged in a legal battle with his young lover’s infuriated father that would ultimately result in the public exposure of his, Wilde’s, homosexuality. As a result, Wilde was imprisoned for two years of hard labor. In jail he continued to write, though his perspective on life and pleasure were notably altered. He died in Paris two years after his release at the age of forty-six.
Though he wore many masks and lived many lives, Wilde was, first and foremost, an artist. And so in honor of his birthday, below is a collection of his most profound quotations regarding the state and nature of capital "A"-Art.
1. “Art is the most intense mode of individualism that the world has known.” (The Soul of Man Under Socialism, 1895)
2. “Art is the only serious thing in the world. And the artist is the only person who is never serious.” (A Few Maxims For The Instruction Of The Over-Educated, 1894)
3. “A work of art is the unique result of a unique temperament. Its beauty comes from the fact that the author is what he is. It has nothing to do with the fact that other people want what they want." (The Soul of Man Under Socialism, 1895)
4. “Life imitates art far more than art imitates Life.” (The Decay of Lying, 1889)
5. “The more we study Art, the less we care for Nature. What Art really reveals to us is Nature's lack of design, her curious crudities, her extraordinary monotony, her absolutely unfinished condition.” (Intentions, 1891).
6. “The public has always, and in every age, been badly brought up. They are continually asking Art to be popular, to please their want of taste, to flatter their absurd vanity, to tell them what they have been told before, to show them what they ought to be tired of seeing, to amuse them when they feel heavy after eating too much, and to distract their thoughts when they are wearied of their own stupidity.” (The Soul of Man Under Socialism 1895)
7. “It is through art, and through art only, that we can realize our perfection; through art and art only that we can shield ourselves from the sordid perils of actual existence.” (The Critic as Artist, 1891)
8. “The work of art is to dominate the spectator: the spectator is not to dominate the work of art.” (The Soul of Man Under Socialism, 1895)
9. “All art is immoral.” (Intentions, 1891).