“Art does not address herself to the specialist” (Oscar Wilde)

The appeal of all Art is simply to the artistic temperament.  Art does not address herself to the specialist.  Her claim is that she is universal, and that in all her manifestations she is one.  Indeed, so far from its being true that the artist is the best judge of art, a really great artist can never judge of other people’s work at all, and can hardly, in fact, judge of his own.  That very concentration of vision that makes a man an artist, limits by its sheer intensity his faculty of fine appreciation.  The energy of creation hurries him blindly on to his own goal.  The wheels of his chariot raise the dust as a cloud around him.  The gods are hidden from each other.  They can recognise their worshippers.  That is all . . . Wordsworth saw in Endymion merely a pretty piece of Paganism, and Shelley, with his dislike of actuality, was deaf to Wordsworth’s message, being repelled by its form, and Byron, that great passionate human incomplete creature, could appreciate neither the poet of the cloud nor the poet of the lake, and the wonder of Keats was hidden from him.  The realism of Euripides was hateful to Sophokles.  Those droppings of warm tears had no music for him.  Milton, with his sense of the grand style, could not understand the method of Shakespeare, any more than could Sir Joshua the method of Gainsborough.  Bad artists always admire each other’s work.  They call it being large-minded and free from prejudice.  But a truly great artist cannot conceive of life being shown, or beauty fashioned, under any conditions other than those that he has selected.  Creation employs all its critical faculty within its own sphere.  It may not use it in the sphere that belongs to others.  It is exactly because a man cannot do a thing that he is the proper judge of it.

From Oscar Wilde’s The Critic as Artist.

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