True Purpose of Art in Podg

The True Purpose of Art Oscar Wilde was a very shrewd intellectual who through the teachings of Walter Pater and John Ruskin became a strong supporter of the aesthetics movement. This movement was one which wanted to shy society away from the fact that art had a purpose. They wanted simply to have art for art’s sake. In essence what this means is that art’s only true purpose is beauty and there are no underlying symbols, meanings, or derivations of art it is simply art.
Oscar Wilde attempts to promote his beliefs about aestheticism in the book “Picture of Dorian Gray” through his use the character Basil Hallward, the picture of Dorian Gray, and the relationship between Lord Henry and Dorian Gray. Oscar Wilde uses Basil Hallward , specifically his perception of a perfect artist to support his argument that the purpose of art is to be beautiful. From the beginning of the book we can see that Basil has a strong tie to his artwork.
In the first chapter when he goes to visit Lord Henry and shows him the portrait of Dorian he tells Lord Henry that he will not exhibit his work because there is too much of the artist in the painting. This scenario leads Dorian to explain to Lord Henry what the an artist’s role truly is “An artist should create beautiful things, but should put nothing of his own life into them. We live in an age when men treat art as if it were meant to be a form of autobiography. We have lost the abstract sense of beauty. Someday I will show the world what it is; and for that reason the world shall never see my portrait of Dorian Gray. (30) What basil is saying in this quote is that society has lost the true essence of art and that the true purpose of an artist is to create something of beauty. That is why he will not show his portrait of Dorian to the world because he feels as if the portrait is not just beautiful it has a deeper meaning which relays not only beauty but some deeper emotion. Also the simple sentence structure in this quote also helps relay the fact that an artist’s job is to do the most basic job create something beautiful without it being complex. Wilde also explicitly uses the preface to help support promote the idea that art’s true goal is beauty.

He does so by using a very bold quote “All art is quite useless”. What Oscar Wilde meant by this quote was that art is useless because it attempts to portray an emotion. It does not instruct or command but instead it just sits there waiting to illicit a temporary response from the viewer. In doing so art becomes a sort of temporary tattoo. In that it is short lived and even though it may be beautiful it will eventually be lost in the haze. Now by using the picture of Dorian Gray, Wilde attempts to show us what happens when art is given a purpose.
In Chapter 7 Dorian first comes to realize that the portrait is aging while he does not and his response is “He had uttered a mad wish that he himself might remain young and the portrait grow old; that his own beauty might be untarnished, and the face on the canvas bear the burden of his passions and his sins; that the painted image might be seared with the lines of suffering and thought, and that he might keep all the delicate bloom and loveliness of his then just conscious boyhood. Surely his wish had not been fulfilled? Such things were impossible. It seemed monstrous even to think of them.
And yet there was the picture before him, with the touch of cruelty in the mouth”(144). This quote proves that in fact the painting did have a purpose. That purpose being to show the dark change in Dorian as he ages. But why would Wilde go against his own beliefs? He did so to prove a point and that point being that only wrong can come from giving art purpose. The portrait ends up causing the death of Dorian and Basil , the original artist. As Dorian commits more and more sins the picture becomes more and more grotesque until finally it is so hideous that even Dorian cannot stand the sight of the picture.
In the beginning of the book however Dorian adored the portrait. This goes to show that when art is given a purpose the art becomes ugly. This is Oscar Wilde’s view means that it is no longer art because the primary function of art is to be beautiful. So if an art is considered ugly than It is no longer art. So therefore whenever art is given a purpose that piece of art is then no longer considered art. Another way Wilde attempts to establish his views on the role of art and the artist is through the relationship between Lord Henry and Dorian Gray.
In their relationship Lord Henry is the sculptor and Dorian is his piece of art. After his discussion with his uncle Lord Henry makes it his goal to influence Dorian in his own manner. But similarly with Basil and his portrait this piece of art also has a purpose and the purpose was to change the identity of the art work in order to satisfy Lord Henry’s pleasure of tainting another into his thought process. As you can well imagine this led the art to turn “ugly”. Ugly in the sense that Dorian became corrupted and evil.
He committed the worst of sins and in the beginning what started off as the purest form of art became the most vile piece of art. So again when the purpose shifted from being beautiful to having a different purpose the art , or Dorian, becomes ugly and it is no longer in fact art. This is just another example which supports the fact that art can only be art if its purpose it to be beautiful. A recurring theme in this novel was the purpose of art and Oscar Wilde gives his opinion on this matter through the character Basil Hallward, the picture of Dorian Gray, and the relationship between Lord Henry and Dorian.
Oscar Wilde understands the value of art and he believes that art is in fact only art when it has no other purpose but to be beautiful. He believes that when a piece of art is given purpose it corrupts the art and it can turn the artwork into some disfigured picture of reality. Oscar Wilde believes that today people have attempted to expand the boundaries of art and he believes that in doing so people lost the beauty in art. He says that art is only meant to inspire and if any other emotions or thoughts arise then that art is ultimately useless.

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