“What is true about drama and the novel is no less true about those arts that we call decorative arts. The whole history of these arts in Europe is the record of the struggle between Orientalism, with its frank rejection of imitation, its love of artistic convention, its dislike to the actual representation of any object in Nature, and our own imitative spirit. Wherever the former has been paramount, as in Byzantium, Sicily, and Spain, by actual contact, or in the rest of Europe by the influence of the Crusades, we have had beautiful and imaginative work in which the visible things of life are transmuted into artistic conventions, and the things that Life has not are invented and fashioned for her delight.” (486)
“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. If you set a picture by Hokusai, or Hokkei, or any of the great native painters, beside a real Japanese gentleman or lady, you will see that there is not the slightest resemblance between them. The actual people who live in Japan are not unlike the general run of English people; that is to say, they are extremely commonplace, and have nothing curious or extraordinary about them. IN fact the whole of Japan is a pure invention. There is no such country, there are no such people.” (493)
Wilde, Oscar. “The Decay of Lying,” in The Critical Tradition: Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends, ed. David Richter (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2007), 478-496.
” All that I desire to point out is the general principle that Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life, and I feel sure that if you think seriously about it you will find that it is true. Life holds the mirror up to Art, and either reproduces some strange type imagined by painter or sculptor, or realizes in fact what has been dreamed in fiction. Scientifically speaking, the basis of life—the energy of life, as Aristotle would call it—is simply the desire for expression and Art is always presenting various forms through which this expression can be attained. Life seizes on them and uses them, even if they be to her own hurt.”
–The Decay of Lying, Oscar Wilde
There are many instances in modern times where one can argue that Life imitates Art. For example, the responsibility of fashion designers as well as fashion magazines is to create new clothing trends and to provide consumers with visual experiences of these trends (via runway shows or spreads in magazines). It is then the consumers’ job to take those pieces of art that the designers and editors created and compiled and to implement them into their own lives. However, it has to be noted that art does not just emerge from nothingness. Artists, whether they be poets or painters or musicians, draw inspiration from life and their own personal experiences. They also create their art with their consumers in mind. They often think about what will appeal to the masses and how they can do it in a way so that they won’t ruffle anyone’s feathers. I think the issue of delegating whether or not one form imitates the other is too complex to elect one being superior of the other. Instead, there are various circumstances in which either one can be argued for.
Wilde, Oscar. “The Decay of lying.” The Critical Tradition: Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends. By David H. Richter. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2007. 491. Print.
“But in modern days while the fashion of writing poetry has become far too common,
and should, if possible, be discouraged, the fashion of lying has almost fallen into disrepute. Many a young man starts in life with a natural gift for exaggeration which, if nurtured in congenial and sympathetic surroundings, or by the imitation of the best models, might grow into something really great and wonderful. But, as a rule, he comes to nothing.”
–The Art of Lying, by Oscar Wilde,
“The final revelation is that Lying, the telling of beautiful untrue things, is the proper aim of Art” (Wilde 496).
When we describe top-tier literature we describe it as art. It is always an artfully crafted masterpiece if the work truly stands the test of time. But to say that the aim of top-tier literature is to lie is abominable. Sure fiction can be construed as made up, but we embark on the journey fully knowing this fact. Even the act of imagining the story play out is a bit of a sham. None of it exists, and yet it does because the work moves you, inspires you, it asks you to think. And it is through this thought process that the true artistry takes place. Vivian can call the aim of art a lie all he likes, and he can even say that the art of lying is decaying because it is now so visibly fiction, but there is something to be said about when you emerge from the depths of a newly finished book. You emerge as a new person.
Wilde, Oscar. “The Decay of Lying: An Observation.” The Critical Tradition. Ed. David Richter. New York: Bedford/St. Martin, 2007. 496. Print.