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‘Art is the only serious thing in the world. And the artist is the only person who is never serious.’
The first 200 words of this essay...
'Art is the only serious thing in the world. And the artist is the only person who is never serious.'
The study of the life and work of Oscar Wilde -the married homosexual, the Protestant Anglo-Irishman with Nationalist and Catholic sympathies- is characterised by his most famous literary device, the paradox, and nowhere is this more true than in his attitude to art. He was an aesthete who worshipped the cult of beauty and strove to live his life artistically yet he was unable to realise these high ideals in either his work or his life, inextricably linked as they were. Art was certainly the serious guiding principle in the life of Wilde the artist, but he compromised his aesthetic principles by his human inability to keep it, and thus himself, detached from serious ideas.
On arriving in England, Wilde was initially seduced by the Oxford Aesthetes, who at that time were heavily inspired by the pre-Raphelite and Christian enthusiasms of Ruskin, and by his idea that art should remain true to nature. However, he soon fell under the more Decadent influence of his tutor, the German and Greek philosophy don Walter Pater, who had already published
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