O.Wilde, Preface to 'The Picture of Dorian Gray'

The artist is the creator of beautiful things. (...)
Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault.
Those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are the cultivated. For these there is hope.
They are the elect to whom beautiful things mean only Beauty.
There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all. (...)

No artist is ever morbid. The artist can express everything. (...)
All art is at once surface and symbol. Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril.
Those who read the symbol do so at their peril.
It is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors.
Diversity of opinion about a work of art shows that the work is new, complex, and vital.
When critics disagree the artist is in accord with himself...

O. Wilde (1854-1900),
Preface to 'The Picture of Dorian Gray'

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Oval Portrait, E.A. Poe

It was the portrait of a young girl just ripening into womanhood...
It was a mere head and shoulders,
done in what is technically termed a vignette manner
- much in the style of the favourite heads of Sully.
The arms, the bosom, and even the ends of the radiant hair,
melted imperceptibly into the vague yet deep shadow
which formed the background of the whole.

The frame was oval, richly gilded and filigreed in Moresque.

As a thing of art
nothing could be more admirable than the painting itself.
I had found the spell of the picture in an absolute life-likeness of expression,
which at first startling, finally confounded,
subdued, and appallled me...

'She was a maiden of rarest beauty,
and not more lovely than full of glee.
And evil was the hour
when she saw,
and loved,
and wedded
the painter.

and having already a bride
in his Art.

-all light and smiles,
and frolicsome as the young fawn;
loving and cherishing all things;
hating only the Art which was her rival;
dreading only the palette and brushes and other untoward instruments
which deprived her of the countenance of her lover.

It was thus a terrible thing for this lady
to hear the painter speak of his desire to pourtray even his young bride.

But she was humble and obedient,
and sat meekly for many weeks in the dark high turret-chamber...

And he... became lost in reveries;
so that he would not see that the light which fell so ghastly...
withered the health and the spirits of his bride,
who pined visibly to all but him.

Yet she smiled on, uncomplainingly,
because she saw that the painter took
a fervid and burning pleasure in his task,
and wrought day and night to depict her who so loved him,
yet who grew daily more dispirited and weak.

... as the labour drew nearer to its conclusion,
there were admitted none into the turret;
for the painter had grown wild with the ardour of his work,
and turned the eyes from the canvas rarely...

...and he would not see that the tints
which he spread upon the canvas
were drawn from the cheeks of her who sat beside him.

And when many weeks had passed,
and but little remained to do,
save one brush upon the mouth
and one tint upon the eye,
the spirit of the lady again flickered up
as the flame within the socket of the lamp.

And then
the brush was given,
and then
the tint was placed;
for one moment,
the painter stood entranced before the work which he had wrought;
but in the next,
while he yet gazed,
he grew tremulous and very pallid,
and aghast,
and crying with a loud voice,
"This is indeed Life itself!"
turned suddenly to regard his beloved

- she was dead!

Illustration by
Arthur Rackham (1935)

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