William Andrews Clark Lecture on Oscar Wilde
“Oscar Wilde and the Visual Arts”
Given by Nicholas Frankel, Virginia Commonwealth University
Tuesday, March 31, 2015, 4:00 p.m.
Oscar Wilde had much to say about the visual and decorative arts. His relationships with leading figures in the art world—notably James Whistler, Aubrey Beardsley, Edward Burne-Jones, and Charles Ricketts, as well as the critics John Ruskin, Walter Pater, and John Symonds—were integral to his ideas, and he was himself the subject for several important visual artworks, including the Clark Library’s own portrait by R. G. Harper Pennington. For students of literature, Wilde’s direct engagements with art and artists are important chiefly for their effects upon his practice as an imaginative writer. The lecture traces the influence of fine art on Wilde’s poetry, fiction, and criticism, while demonstrating the centrality of the decorative and book arts to his published work. Touched upon are Wilde’s early quarrels with Whistler over the respective merits of painting and literature. But increasingly Wilde came to see language itself as something iconic and inherently visual, and it is in his books of the early 1890s—Dorian Gray, The Sphinx, and the famous English edition of Salome, illustrated by Beardsley—that we see the full flowering of Oscar Wilde’s interest in the visual arts.
Nicholas Frankel is Professor of English at Virginia Commonwealth University and the author or editor of a number of books relating to Oscar Wilde, including Oscar Wilde’s Decorated Books (University of Michigan Press, 2000); Masking The Text: Essays on Literature and Mediation in the 1890s (Rivendale Press, 2009); The Sphinx, by Oscar Wilde, with Decorations by Charles Ricketts (Rice University Press, 2010); and The Picture of Dorian Gray: An Annotated Uncensored Edition (Harvard University Press, 2011). The last was named an Honor Book in both fiction and criticism categories at the 2012 Stonewall Book Awards and has been translated into Portuguese, Greek, and Italian. His annotated edition of Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest will appear from Harvard in 2015, and he is currently preparing further annotated editions and a new biography of Wilde for Harvard. He is the recipient of fellowships from the National Humanities Center, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Bibliographical Society of America, and the Yale Center for British Art.
This biennial lecture on Oscar Wilde is made possible by a generous endowment founded by Mr. William Zachs.
Registration Deadline: March 26, 2015
Admission is complimentary, but advance registration is requested:
Please be aware that space at the Clark is limited and that registration closes when capacity is reached. Confirmation will be sent via email.
Image: Oscar Wilde, by R. G. Harper Pennington