The Critic as Artist | Study Guide

Oscar Wilde

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The Critic as Artist | Quotes


I dislike modern memoir.


One of the first things that Ernest says to Gilbert is that he dislikes modern memoir. He claims that no one of interest ever writes a memoir. Memoir writers have either lost their memories or haven't experienced anything worth remembering.


Will never weary of watching that troubled soul in its progress from darkness to darkness.


Gilbert claims that readers will never tire of reading autobiographies in which the writer confesses their sins. For this reason autobiographies are more interesting than biographies.


Why cannot the artist be left alone, to create a new world if he wishes.


Ernest believes that art critics are a nuisance and that artists should be left alone to pursue their creative work.


The most perfect are ... that which most fully mirrors man in all his infinite variety.


Gilbert claims that the best art is that which reflects the true nature and complexity of humanity.


The great poet is always a seer, seeing ... with the eyes of the soul.


Gilbert explains that It is the job of the poet to observe life on a deeper level than the casual observer and to create poetry out of observations. The poet is a visionary who paints pictures with words.


The material that a painter or sculptor uses is meagre in comparison with that of words.


Gilbert believes that literature is the highest and most expressive of all the art forms. He points to the fact that writers have more words at their disposal than the tools of the visual artists. He also claims that writers are better able to capture movement and motion than visual artists.


All fine imaginative work is self-conscious and deliberate.


Ernest claims that great art comes from the unconscious and in response Gilbert explains that on the contrary all imaginative work is deliberate and self-conscious. He explains that poets sing because they choose to sing rather than because they must sing.


For it is the critical faculty that invents fresh forms.


Gilbert believes that creativity and criticism work in concert with each other and that artists need to have a critical nature to bring forth new creative ideas.


What is called Sin is an essential element of progress.


Gilbert believes that the world would be stagnant without sin which he defines as individualism and the rejection of morality. Sin builds curiosity and experience and saves people from monotony.


When a man acts he's a puppet. When he describes he's a poet.


Gilbert argues that it's more difficult to talk about something than to do the same thing so it would be more difficult to be a literary critic than to be a writer. Therefore, he maintains that critics are greater artists than visual artists and writers.


What is action? It dies at the moment of its energy.


According to Gilbert actions are momentary. An action happens, and then it's over, whereas the retelling of the action can last for eons.


The world is made by the singer for the dreamer.


Gilbert explains that it is not the historical figures who make history. It is the poet and the singer who tell the stories that keep history alive.


The highest criticism really is, the record of one's own soul.


Gilbert believes that critics create art out of their own thoughts, feelings, and observations and therefore their critiques reveal parts of their souls.


It treats the work of art simply as a starting-point for a new creation.


Gilbert explains that critics don't need to concern themselves with discovering the intentions of the artist or the meaning of the piece of art in front of them. Criticism views the work of art as a starting point for the critique which is a work of art in its own right.


It is rather the beholder who lends to the beautiful thing its myriad meanings.


Gilbert explains that it doesn't matter what the artist intended. It is the person viewing the art who ascribes meaning to it.

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