A Dandy is a man who has the belief that good looks, fine clothes and refined language are very important.
In ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ Lord Henry is a Dandy, seeming to hold the view that people’s physical appearance are most important – and can somehow define their personality and how they think:
“Your mysterious young friend, whose name you have never told me, but whose picture really fascinates me, never thinks. I feel quite sure of that. He is some brainless beautiful creature..”
Lord Henry’s advice and thoughts turn Dorian into a Dandy, caring only for his physical appearance, so much that he could trade his soul to be youthful forever:
“If it were I who was to be always young, and the picture that was to grow old! For that-for that-I would give everything! Yes, there is nothing in the whole world I would not give! I would give my soul for that!”
William Morris and the Aesthetics Movement
William Morris was an artist famous for his floral patterns, used especially in wallpaper and curtains etc. He was one of the figures in the Aesthetics Movement, a movement concentrating more on aesthetics (looking good) than social/political themes. In essence it supported art for art’s sake, art to be pretty rather than express a view.
This was not only in art, this was in all forms – literature, dance, etc, meaning that many things became meaningless – it’s only meaning was to look good.
In ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ Dorian’s only concern is to ‘look good’ – and be aesthetic and youthful for as long as possible. As well as this Wilde portrays his opinion of art in the preface. This seems to support the aesthetic movement, saying that “An artist should create beautiful things, but should put nothing of his own life into them.” This suggests that the “beautiful things” need no meaning, their beauty is enough without themes or back-stories behind them. Wilde also states that “No artist desires to prove anything. Even things that are true can be proved.” – suggesting that there is no need to prove beauty with an overarching social theme etc, it is good enough without it. Wilde seems to be of the impression that good art is “useless” – and that creating art is the only good thing that is useless: “The only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it intensely.”
Thanks for reading,