Selected Prose of Oscar Wilde eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 117 pages of information about Selected Prose of Oscar Wilde.
and painters have taught them the mysterious loveliness of such effects.  There may have been fogs for centuries in London.  I dare say there were.  But no one saw them, and so we do not know anything about them.  They did not exist till Art had invented them.  Now, it must be admitted, fogs are carried to excess.  They have become the mere mannerism of a clique, and the exaggerated realism of their method gives dull people bronchitis.  Where the cultured catch an effect, the uncultured catch cold.  And so, let us be humane, and invite Art to turn her wonderful eyes elsewhere.  She has done so already, indeed.  That white quivering sunlight that one sees now in France, with its strange blotches of mauve, and its restless violet shadows, is her latest fancy, and, on the whole, Nature reproduces it quite admirably.  Where she used to give us Corots and Daubignys, she gives us now exquisite Monets and entrancing Pissaros.  Indeed there are moments, rare, it is true, but still to be observed from time to time, when Nature becomes absolutely modern.  Of course she is not always to be relied upon.  The fact is that she is in this unfortunate position.  Art creates an incomparable and unique effect, and, having done so, passes on to other things.  Nature, upon the other hand, forgetting that imitation can be made the sincerest form of insult, keeps on repeating this effect until we all become absolutely wearied of it.  Nobody of any real culture, for instance, ever talks nowadays about the beauty of a sunset.  Sunsets are quite old-fashioned.  They belong to the time when Turner was the last note in art.  To admire them is a distinct sign of provincialism of temperament.  Upon the other hand they go on.—­The Decay of Lying.


After all, what the imitative arts really give us are merely the various styles of particular artists, or of certain schools of artists.  Surely you don’t imagine that the people of the Middle Ages bore any resemblance at all to the figures on mediaeval stained glass, or in mediaeval stone and wood carving, or on mediaeval metal-work, or tapestries, or illuminated MSS.  They were probably very ordinary-looking people, with nothing grotesque, or remarkable, or fantastic in their appearance.  The Middle Ages, as we know them in art, are simply a definite form of style, and there is no reason at all why an artist with this style should not be produced in the nineteenth century.  No great artist ever sees things as they really are.  If he did, he would cease to be an artist.  Take an example from our own day.  I know that you are fond of Japanese things.  Now, do you really imagine that the Japanese people, as they are presented to us in art, have any existence?  If you do, you have never understood Japanese art at all.  The Japanese people are the deliberate self-conscious creation of certain individual artists. 

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Selected Prose of Oscar Wilde from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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