The Preface of Art

Before I delved into Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, I took a few moments to absorb Wilde’s preface regarding his thoughts of art. Within the preface he states a myriad of different tenants that an artist should follow. While many of them are useful and in accordance with that of an artist, the last few pillars of an artist were a little unclear to me. In the last few lines of his preface he states “we can forgive a man for making a useful thing as long as he does not admire it. The only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it intensely. All art is quite useless.” It seems rather uncanny to me that he might finish his preface on this note. To a first time reader of Dorian Gray, this is the first taste that they would get, a first impression of the novel before delving into it. Is Wilde trying to tell us that our journey through his novel will be a useless endeavor, or simply that all of art has no rhyme or reason to it. And what about this man who makes art? We cannot forgive him for admiring his art? In my opinion, much of art is meant to be admired. For it is a reflection of the artist’s soul, opening themselves to the harsh eyes of the world and a form of self expression that is meant to be seen by others. An artist would not simply create something and not be proud of his accomplishments and not hope that other denizens would see the hard work and dedication that it took to bore a little piece of their imagination into the world. While it may seem that other pieces of art may seem useless, all art should be admired and celebrated, for it is the greatest symbol of humanity in the world: the willingness and drive to create and innovate. Art is not useless; it might not be understood, it might not be comprehensible, it might not be the most aesthetic object of the earth, but it is still important. Because we make it that way, it is whatever we want it to be, and that is why it is so important.

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