Oscar Wilde and the aesthetic movement

The aesthetic movement developed in the universities and in the intellectual circles in the last decades of the 19’h century.

Originating in France with the theories of Teophil Gautier it reflected the sense of frustration of the artist and their reaction against the materialism of the society.

In this period borne the figure of the bohemian, he embodied his protest against the monotony and the vulgarity of bourgeois.

He allies himself to the masses and consider art as the most important thing in his life (“art for art’s sake”). This movement became famous thanks to Walter Pater, considered the theorist of aestheticism.

He became known with “Marius the Epicurean”.  This work was at once successful thanks to its subversive and demoralising message.  It was against the code of bourgeois and the Christian faith.  He said that only art could stop time and so people must spend their life as a “work of art “, living any moment with happiness and pleasure.

This ideal influenced a lot of writers of all the nationalities. In England the most important and the most known writer of this period is Oscar Wilde.



Oscar Wilde was born in Dublin in 1854 He was the son of a surgeon and a literate woman.  He soon became a disciples of Walter Pater and , after graduated at Oxford , he went to London Where he had a beautiful social life with party and meeting.  He was considered the best talker in London.

Unfortunately he was trend of homosexual affair and went to prison for two years. He died in France in poverty in 19OO.  Wilde adopted “the aesthetic ideal”.  He affirmed that his life is like a ” work of art “. He embodied the figure of the dandy: an aristocrat whose elegance is a symbol of the superiority of his spirit.  The Wildean dandy was interest only in beautiful clothes, good conversation and delicious food.

He believed that only art could prevent the dead of the soul.

The novel that most reflect the personality of Wilde is “the picture of Dorian Gray”.

Dorian is a young boy that is painted by an artist.

He wanted to be beautiful and young for ever like his portrait on the picture.  But while all his dreams are satisfied all the sins and the bad things of his life appear on the picture.

Actually Dorian lived only for pleasure making use of everyone and letting people die for his insensitivity.  When Dorian saw that the portrait bas changed his appearances he decided to stab the picture but he mysteriously kills himself

In the very moment of the dead the portrait return to its purity .

The story is narrated by an unobtrusive third person narrator.  The point of view become internal from the second chapter when the speaker is Doran himself The settings are described very well and the characters reveal themselves trough what they say or what other people say of them.

We can notice how Wilde is more interested in the form than in the aim of his works.

He wrote only for entertainment but he did not have a moralising attitude even if in this text we can find a lot of critics to the hypocrisy of the society trough the use of metaphors (for examples the purity of the portrait that hide the real person that Dorian was).

dalla tesina multidisciplinare “Estetismo” esame di stato 2005 di Marco Zoia

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