Aestheticism and Romanticism have a lot in common, rejection of the material world and materialism in general, emphasis on sensibility and imagination, the quest for that striking, unforgettable emotion that gives meaning to your life. There are many similarities, but one thing is certainly different: the role of the artist. For Wordsworth the artist was the super sensitive genius, that has a mission to accomplish: defending man’s innate, natural sensibility which was about to be worn away by the values expressed by the new industrial society. On this purpose he had created a new “bourgeois poetry”, purged of all classic refinements, a new artistic language accessible to everybody which should have made the poet’s message easily attain man’s soul. They were great communicators and dreamers: art may change the world and its message should be available for all people. But for the aesthetes all the beautiful people of the world were just like the crew of Baudelaire‘s Albatros: hopelessly rude, ignorant, insensitive.The artist had nothing to say these people, whatever his choice of language was; they couldn’t and wouldn’t have understood. Therefore he decided interrupt the Romantic communicative effort and kept on flying in their sky made of taste and beauty. Art is for art’s sake and not for the sake of morality. The two opposite communicative intents can be clearly seen if we just compare the layout of the preface of the Lyrical Ballads to Wilde‘s preface of the Picture of Dorian Gray. The former is an extensive text, where Wordsworth explains his poetical project outlining methods and objectives, the latter is only a list of thought that don’t aim at being discussed. The artist is the creator of beautiful things. Full stop. The critic should judge the form rather than the content of an artistic product. Full stop. An artist should not have a didactic or moral aim. Full stop, All art is quite useless. The end.
The Wildean artist, therefore, cannot moralize. To have a moral end, artists need to be able to communicate with their audience, but Wilde immediately chooses he does not want to do that. He is an aesthete, he belongs to the world of beauty and writes with the intent to please himself… He does not want to be understood, and mostly, he does not want to deal with the public.
He says what he wants to say. And especially he does not care if someone reads his work or not. He just writes it. He will always continue to be in his world of beauty and he will never care to go in the slums of the city as the bohemien used to do.
Surely the role of the artist is a delicate position to deal with. As posted, the artist could be as wordsworth, a common man with a special sensibility for ‘’things’’, a different point of view. These kind of poets have to communicate the beauty of Art as they feel it, communicate it to the people. But on the other side we have the so called Aesthetes: poets with a superior sense of sensibility, but filled up with the arrogance of being a superior man, far away from the lower ‘’plebeians’’. These arrogance interrupted the pre-existent communication between romantic poets and people, considered rude and ignorant. For me, what aesthetes decided to wasn’t wrong at all, surely their haughtiness was to blame, but they wanted to elevate poetry to a new, upper level. Probably these new level wasn’t for everyone, but as I think, poets have to write what they want in the way they prefer. in the end, I think that a poet is a person, a normal one, just like you and me, but has a uncommon way of thinking that mark him out of the common, and should transmit his message to everyone. But this message could be understood by the people as it couldn’t be got, and no one could blame the poets of being arrogant.
I agree with Wordsworth, because for me a true artist must be able to provoke emotions. for example, when I look at a work of art to appreciate it really, I have to be affected not only by the aesthetic beauty, but also by the sense and the depth of the picture, almost gasping, because I think the important thing is not the exterior beauty .
That’s why I believe that to be called such, the artist must be able to provide the means to his work to communicate with us.
Should I start by dedicating thousands of pleasant words in honour of my adorable Charles B., solitary, controversial poet, we may say, a star without an atmosphere, or should I express my immense pleasure in reading such an article, which comprehends so many of my interests?!
I’ll start by saying that Aestheticism, as You say, is art for art’s sake, it just relates to decadentism actually. Aesthetists prefer simplicity, not superficiality, but just bloody simplicity, such a decadent concept; whereas the Romantic concept is more to be seen as sublime in nature, isn’t it?
There is a quite clear dichotomy between Aesthetism and Romanticism
But as I go through rough pages of the magnificent masterpiece ‘The picture of Dorian Gray’, being it on my shelf, next to me, I can’t stand thinking that, sooner or later, we’ll all be attached so merely at beauty and sublime, rather than art in its form.
As Kant said once:
“What matters is not the picture I see; rather it is the pleasing effect of the picture on me.”
Impossible, unarrivable Nirvana.
It is wrenching, does it heart wrench You…?!