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Aestheticism in 'The Picture of Dorian Gray'

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Jevon Swan

on 6 November 2012

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Transcript of Aestheticism in 'The Picture of Dorian Gray'

OOscar Wilde
and the
Aesthetic Movement in Europe How did the Aesthetic literary and artistic movement influence Oscar Wilde's life and Dorian's life?
Aesthetics is a branch of philosophy that studies the principles of beauty, especially in art. Artists and writers of the aesthetic movement believed that art should provide pleasure to the senses instead of moral messages. The aesthetic movement greatly influenced Oscar Wilde’s life and Dorian’s life. In the 1800s, during the Victorian era, the aesthetic movement became a popular social attitude opposed to traditional Victorian values which saw art as a tool to educate and teach principles and morals, instead of being only for the purpose of enjoyment. Wilde became a major proponent of the Aesthetic and Decadent movements. Dorian Gray lived a decadent life. Throughout the novel, Dorian's perspective of the world becomes solely aesthetic and he feels the increasing need to surround himself with objects of beauty. Aestheticism states that there is nothing wrong with materialism but problems arise when it replaces spiritualism. Dorian becomes emotionally detached from his experiences and views his life as a spectator. Under the influence of Lord Henry, he believed that he served no purpose but to be beautiful and ended up destroying himself because he only recognized a single aspect of himself. Later in the novel, Dorian tells Henry that the book that he lent to him was poisonous and harmful and this is opposite of Dorian's previously aesthetic views which say that art is sterile and it does not intend to influence people. When The Picture of Dorian Gray was first published in 1890, the novel was labeled as immoral. Wilde decided to revise the novel and he published it a year later and included a preface that outlines his intended aesthetic approach as an answer to all the criticism he received. He outlines what he thinks should be the purpose of art. In the preface, he says that the only purpose of art is to be beautiful. He defines the artist as a creator of beautiful things. He gives the reader a warning to not read too much into a work of art (“Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril”). He concludes that “All art is quite useless” which is a way of saying that no kind of art has innate value, which supports what he said that, “There is no such thing as a moral or immoral book.” Art has value because we give it value. A dandy is a man who places particular importance upon physical appearance, refined language, and leisurely hobbies. Oscar Wilde was characterized as a dandy in his day. Andy Warhol who led the pop art movement was considered a modern dandy. Others considered to be modern day dandies are Lapo Elkann, Luca Rubinacci, and Sebastion Horsely. What is a Dandy? What is the preface about? What are the differences between the Aesthetic Movement in France, Great Britain and Italy?
Aestheticism represents the same tendencies that symbolism or decadence stood for in France and that decadentismo stood for in Italy. Aestheticism can be considered the British branch of the same movement. Symbolists in France believed that are should aim to capture more absolute truths which could only be accessed by indirect methods. They wrote in a highly metaphorical and suggestive manner, endowing particular images or objects with symbolic meaning. Decadentismo was an Italian artistic movement based loosely on the decadent movement that was common at the end of the 19th century. Although differing in their approahces, they championed the idiosyncratic and the irrational against the advancing tide of scientific rationalism and mass culture at the turn of the 20th century. What do Oscar Wilde and Gabriele D'Annunzio have in common? The main thing that these authors have in common is that the both wrote during the Aesthetic movement. The protagonists of 'The Picture of Dorian Gray' and 'Il Piacere' are both looking for pleasure in all aspects of life. This results in both protagonists leading bad lifestyles which include drugs, sex and even murder. They try to find the pleasure of beauty as they think that it is the most important thing in life.
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