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The relationship between life and art in “The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde “The Picture of Dorian Gray” appeared in 1890, being the only novel Oscar Wilde ever published. It was considered indecent by the editors, so they censored the novel before publication. Even so, the readers received it very well. The distinction between art and life may be simple, as we know that life is real, but art is not. People create and imagine art, while they can actually live and experience art.
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  The relationship between life and art in “The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde   “The Picture of Dorian Gray” appeared in 1890, being the only novel Oscar Wilde ever  published. It was considered indecent by the editors, so they censored the novel before  publication. Even so, the readers received it very well. The distinction between art and life may be simple, as we know that life is real, but art is not. People create and imagine art, while they can actually live and experience art. Oscar Wilde is inspired in his works by a very popular idea from the Renaissance. People back then found correspondences between heaven and earth. This idea was seen in people’s reaction, as  they looked to the skies when things went wrong. Also, in the literature of the Renaissance, there was a correspondence between beauty and virtue. Likewise, if someone was seen as a beautiful  person, it was also thought to be virtuous. But if it was ugly, it was assumed to be corrupt. This emphasizes the idea that “the face told the story of the soul”.  Oscar Wilde is inspired by the idea of the correspondences and wants to see how it would work in the world of the aesthetes. The aesthetes (1890s) were trying to develop a positive philosophy of art. Art should not be subordinated to life, “as a mirror is subordinated to the object mirrored”. Art should be superior, as it has no limit in time, it cannot be changed and it can be seen as  perfect. In the nineteenth century, the relationship between life and art was often illustrated in works of the time. For example, “The Lady of Shalott” is based on the idea of life and art, having important parallels in Dorian Gray. The Lady is isolated from the world, and she only can see  world’s reflections through a mirror. But when she looks at Lancelot directly, the mirror   cracks, the result being the destruction of her art. In “The Picture of Dorian Gray”, the relationship between art and life is reflected in the most impo rtant characters, not only in Dorian’s life story.  Likewise, this relationship can be seen also in Sibyl’s life. She is isola ted in the tower of art. She uses her gifts as an artist, and she manages to transform the stage into the Forest of Arden. The story of Sibyl Vane is an emblematic one, creating basic expectations about life that destroys art. These expectations are ultimately satisfied by the novel. Before meeting Sibyl, Dorian doesn’t realize his potential for good or evil. But their relationshi  p and its complications transforms him in a spectator of her tragedy, by escaping from the suffering of life. This relationship also emphasizes the most important characteristic of the novel, the mirrored image. Wilde uses the metaphor of the mirror in his essays in order to show the superiority of art to life. Sibyl is an important character in the novel, as her life is obviously imitating art. Her power as an artist is the main reason for Dorian’s attraction to her. The relationship of the two characters shows that Dorian is sick of the decaying world he lives in, so he wishes for a living within the art, as art is timeless, and somehow perfect. His actions, the lack of aging and the way in which he sees the world highlights his digression from reality. On stage, Sibyl Vane portrays Shakespearian characters, which emphasizes once more the idea that while almost everything dies, or disappears, art has no end in time. It is what he finds in these characters that Dorian strives for: the permanence of life. But in the end, Sibyl is for Dorian just a personification of art, and this thing is seen in his own words, in a discussion with Lord Henry : “I have seen her in every age and in every costume”  (51). The only reason Dorian keeps the young actress as “sacred”  (52) is that her existence portrays art in life. Thus, Sibyl, without being an actress, is not  appropriate anymore for his view on the world. He even confessed to Sibyl, saying that his love for her existed only because she “realized the dreams of great poets and gave shape and substance to the shadow of art”  (85). This idea is further continued, when Dorian says that “without your art, you are nothing”  (85). Similar ideas as Dorian Gray are found also Mrs. Vane ’s character, Sibyl’ s mother, in the way of seeing the entire concept of art, when she tells her  : “you must not think of anything, but your acting”  (59). This may state that one of the purposes of the novel is to bring into sharp focus the idea that without art, life cannot exist either. Art has a defining role in the novel, working in order to emphasize each character. The three main aspects of art are divided by Oscar Wilde, each one representing one of his main three characters in the novel. Basil Hallward is characterized by the absorbed view of the creator, while Lord Henry presents the detached spectatorial view. The backbone of the novel is illustrated with Dorian Gray’s character, through his philosophy of living life as art. This  philosophy presumes the existence of a beautiful life in the middle of the moralized society that creates the broken world, full of fault. It is the only way Dorian can vanquish realism and live a life in his own terms, as he managed to escape the fate of becoming art. Lord Henry, by using his epigrams turns the world into a piece of art. Also, he succeeds at turning Dorian into a piece of living art. Lord Henry has the power to destroy someone’s life, only using words, a statement that is shown trough Dorian’s words to Lord Henry: “you cut life to pieces with your epigrams”  (95). In the end, it can be easily seen that Lord Henry is the only one in the novel experiencing and gaining from art without being affected in the manner the rest of the characters were. Through the character of Lord Henry, Wilde states that rather than  creating meaning in someone’s life, art exists in order to make life worth living, through all the sensations art creates. Although he seems independent in the beginning of the novel, Basil turns out to be the most influenced character. He is influenced by Dorian and Lord Henry too. The only way he can express himself is through art. He states that “every portrait that is painted with feeling is a  portrait of the artist”  (9). This shows that for an intellectual, art is a way of expressing himself in  beauty. Hallward sees art as an universal language which can influence others, and he also thinks that “there is nothing art can express”  (13) , an argument that is continued in “The Decay  of Lying” by Oscar Wilde, stating that by capturing the essence of nature in art more profound and abstract feelings can be produced. Basil’s downfall is captured in his exclamation as he sees the  painting: “I worshipped you too much, I am punished for it”  (151) . The degradation of Dorian’s  portrait can be seen as a metaphor for Basil’s morality.  Just like the painting, the workshop in which the portrait was created suffers degradation, because the srcinal beauty doesn’t exist anymore, as the painting aged and the magical moment disappeared. This idea is inspired by Wilde’s aesthetic ideal which states that one cannot recapture the essence of a lost moment of recognition. Wilde uses this ideal to create both Dorian’s and Basil’s development, and also their   errors. Basil believes that “Love is a more wonderful thing than Art” (p. 84), just like Sibyl Vane does. Thus, while Basil sees in the portrait his love for Dorian, Dorian can see nothing else but his monstrous vanity. It is Wilde’s argument in the Preface, “It is the spectator, and no t life, that art truly mirrors”  that sustains this idea.
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