21 Apr

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After Oscar Wilde published The Picture of Dorian Gray, with its preface in which he quipped that “all art is quite useless”, a young admirer wrote to ask for some explanation of what Wilde meant. Wilde’s reply:

“Art is useless because its aim is simply to create a mood. It is not meant to instruct, or to influence action in any way. It is superbly sterile, and the note of its pleasure is sterility. If the contemplation of a work of art is followed by activity of any kind, the work is either of a very second-rate order, or the spectator has failed to realise the complete artistic impression.

A work of art is useless as a flower is useless. A flower blossoms for its own joy. We gain a moment of joy by looking at it. That is all that is to be said about our relations to flowers. Of course man may sell the flower, and so make it useful to him, but this has nothing to do with the flower. It is not part of its essence. It is accidental. It is a misuse. All this is I fear very obscure. But the subject is a long one.”

Of course we’d expect no less from such a master of language and of aesthetics-over-function dandyism as Wilde, but even with the disclaimer of the subject being a long one he nails the problem with the commercial art market– then and now– in two paragraphs.

2 Responses to “USELESS”

  1. Alistair 23/04/2014 at 11:49 AM #

    Reblogged this on Alistair Gentry.

  2. annabelletroy 07/05/2014 at 1:09 AM #

    I guess you could add that “uselessness has its uses”, lol. Hope you can check out my own post on Dorian Gray:
    Cheers, Annabelle

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