Which Comes First: Reality or Art?

It goes without saying that you will not write a good novel unless you possess the sense of reality ; but it will be difficult to give you a recipe for calling that sense into being. Humanity is immense, and reality  has a myriad forms ; the most one can affirm is that some of the flowers of fiction have the odour of it, and others have not ; as for telling you in advance how your nosegay should be composed, that is another affair. It is equally excellent and inconclusive to say that one must write from experience ; to our supposititious aspirant such a declaration might savour of mockery. What kind of experience is intended, and where does it begin and end ? Experience is never limited, and it is never complete ; it is an immense sensibility, a kind of huge spider- web of the finest silken threads suspended in the chamber of consciousness, and catching every air- borne particle in its tissue. It is the very atmosphere of the mind ; and when the mind is imaginative much more when it happens to be that of a man of genius it takes to itself the faintest hints of life, it converts the very pulses of the air into revelations (pg. 387-88).

-Henry James. “The Art of Fiction.” In Partial Portraits. New York: Macmillan, 1894. Internet Archive. (http://archive.org/details/partialportraitsoojameiala.)

Notes: What is true definition of experience; experience vs. reality; art vs. reality; experience becomes art


Cyril. Nature follows the landscape painter then, and takes her effects from him?

Vivian. Certainly… For what is Nature? Nature is no great mother who has borne us. She is our creation. It is in our brain that she quickens to life. Things are because we see them, and what we see, and how we see it, depends on the Arts that have influenced us. To look at a thing is very different from seeing a thing. One does not see anything until one sees its beauty. Then, and then only, does it come into existence. At present, people see fogs, not because there are fogs, but because poets and painters have taught them the mysterious loveliness of such effects. There may have been fogs for centuries in London. I dare say there were. But no one saw them, and so we do not know anything about them. They did not exist till Art had invented them (40-41).

-Oscar Wilde. “The Decay of Lying.” In Intentions. New York: Brentano’s, 1905 (Internet Archive. http://archive.org/details/intentionsdecayo00wild).

Notes: Life imitates art; Humans create Nature, not Nature creates humans; perception vs. reality

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