Oscar Wilde Quotes About The Eternal Pursuit Of Beauty

April 28, 2017

|Alejandro Arroyo Cano

Just like a mortal venom, beauty entered our eyes to rot our souls. 

For many centuries, beauty has been understood as a synonym of goodness. With the passing of time, this term has been subjected to aesthetic canons that eventually became unreachable. The worst part of this is that there's people who believe these standards are the only thing to aspire for in life, and when they can't reach these impossible standards, the frustration creates an overwhelming void in their lives. 

Today, this disdain for ugliness has evolved into some sort of power. Those who were blessed with a standard of beauty can have control over others if they want to. As Leo Tolstoi once said, “it is amazing how complete is the delusion that beauty is goodness.” Why do we assume this is true? A well-defined body and a perfect face can enthrall anyone. People with these qualities become as divine as Adonis or Aphrodite. But what happens when beauty is linked to evilness and the corruption of the soul?

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Oscar Wilde dealt with this duality in his famous novel The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890). The protagonist is a wealthy aristocrat who possesses everything, even unprecedented beauty, but it's precisely this quality what drives him into a world of mundane passions that ends up corrupting his soul. When a painter, enraptured by his beauty, makes portrait of him, the main character falls in love with his own image and wishes to stay like that forever. Soon he discovers that, whenever he commits a despicable act, the portray shows the true colors of his dark soul, but his face remains the same. 

The meaning of beauty alters every time the painting shows signs of Dorian's perverted soul. One of the interpretations of the novel is that everything we consider as sublime isn't really related to an essence of kindness. Oscar Wilde breaks with the common belief and shows us that external beauty is only a mask; what lies behind it can vary from person to person.

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If you consider yourself a connoisseur of beauty, this might be the right time to stop worshiping it. Here are some quotes by Oscar Wilde to understand the many faces of beauty and the implications it can have in our lives.


"The artist is the creator of beautiful things."

"The critic is he who can translate into another manner or a new material his impression of beautiful things."

"Those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are the cultivated. For these there is hope."

"They are the elect to whom beautiful things mean only beauty."

"But beauty, real beauty, ends where an intellectual expression begins."

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"There is no doubt that genius lasts longer than beauty."

"People say sometimes that beauty is only superficial. That may be so, but at least it is not so superficial as thought is. To me, beauty is the wonder of wonders. It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances."

"What a pity it was that such beauty was destined to fade!"

"An artist should create beautiful thing 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."

"His beauty had been to him but a mask, his youth but a mockery. What was youth at best? A green, an unripe time, a time of shallow moods, and sickly thoughts."

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"It was not that mere physical admiration of beauty that is born of the senses and that dies when the senses tire."


Sometimes beauty can be unreachable, but now we know why. Under the lines of perfection, there can be a monster in disguise waiting to drain all of our energy.


If you're interested in Oscar Wilde's vision of life, you can't miss these 5 Oscar Wilde Books Perfect For Intellectually-Minded Souls. Also, if you're still trying to understand beauty, check How Our Favorite Heroes Only Teach That Physical Beauty Trumps Kindness.


The Picture of Dorian Grey

Translated by María Isabel Carrasco Cara Chards
Alejandro Arroyo Cano

Alejandro Arroyo Cano