"The form of government that is most suitable to the artist is no government at all. ... One might point out how the Renaissance was great, because it sought to solve no social problem, and busied itself not about such things, but suffered the individual to develop freely, beautifully, and naturally, and so had great and individual artists, and great, individual men. One might point out how Louis XIV, by creating the modern state, destroyed the individualism of the artist ..."
Oscar Wilde
(1854-1900) Anglo-Irish poet, novelist, writer
"The Soul of Man Under Socialism", in Oscar Wilde's Plays, Writings and Poems (J.M. Dent, 1930), pp. 281 and 283
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Reader comments about this quote:
First time I read this vision of Renaissance. It adds to appeal of this great quote.
 -- bruno, paris     
    True..President John F.Kennedy made a similar statement on October 26,1963:"Our national strength matters,but the spirit which informs and controls that spirit matters just as much.When power narrows the areas of man's concern,art reminds him of the richness and diversity of his existence.When power corrupts,art cleanses.For art establishes the basic human truth which must serve as the touchstone of our judgement.If sometimes our artists have been the most critical of our society,it is because their sensibility and concern for justice,which must motivate any true artist,makes him aware that our nation falls short of it's highest potential.I see little of more importance to the future of our country and our civilization than full recognition of the place of the artist." To that,I say Amen.
     -- Kevin Shearer, Queensbury,NY.     
    True enough...but then again, so is this quote from John Adams, that I think, better describes our times and responsibilities: I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain. John Adams US diplomat & politician (1735 - 1826)
     -- Michael , Houston,TX     
    The freedom of the artist has always been intrically tied to the economic means made available to him/her that thus enables them to pursue a full creatively productive life. The Renaissance was an amazing period in human thought and innovation, but the artists were intricately linked to the power structure of the time-theVatican. It has always been one of my ruminations to imagine what Michelangelo, Brunelleschi, DaVinci and friends might have created if freed with their amazing genius from the constraints of religious subject matter. As for Louis XIV, it is a stretch to give him credit for creating modernity, and then imply that it is this era that has deprived the artist of his individualism. For good or bad the modern artist enjoys levels of unfettered freedom that no others in human history have.
     -- EGL, LA     
    Perhaps it was the renaissance system of patronage that gave some structure to the art that was created, that allowed the artists to create what could be appreciated by many people. The artist was a craftsman whose work had to be pleasing to his customer. Perhaps modern art is an example of the unstructured anarchic system which leads an artist to create what is only pleasing to himself. That is why today's art consists of jars of urine, manure smeared drawings, and "performance art" of self-abuse with razor blades and masturbation.
     -- Ken, Allyn, WA     
    Art as a work for hire, doing something that your patron approves of, did go out the window with the liberation of the artist from strict systems of patronage. How could the artists of the modern era-the impressionists, supremacists, abstract expressionists and color field painters-have every achieved the cognitive breakthroughs they did that were only possible through a process that was inner-directed not other-dictated. Their goal was finally andno longer the need to create to please. The whole point in art (well one of them anyway) is that it is not craft, work that is functional made for practical use based on someone else's needs or requirements. And if some contemporary art shocks this is its raison d'etre, to shake you out of your complacency with the status quo. It is still ok to hate it, but maybe it makes you realize you can hate other things that are also BS, like the political and social status quo.
     -- EGL, LA     
    Life is an art. When life ceases to be an art, it becomes a chore. Religions are in fact art forms -- they combine poetry, music, dance, painting, sculpture, architecture, and in particular drama -- all of which are designed to move us and express that spiritual essence that is so difficult to express. Art is power only in that it can challenge the status quo and take us places we have never been (or dare not go). Alternative styles, rhythms, and tones are inevitable in a free society and will attract their own followers. Rock and Disco may never see eye-to-eye, but both are honest expressions of internal feelings shared by those who are touched by the sights and sounds of the artists. May we all develop a respect for the enquiring mind and the artist who manages to bring forth something that moves and touches people to be true. I see no end to the process.
     -- E Archer, NYC     
    Ken, Allyn,WA. Amen!
     -- cal, lewisville, tx     
    May contain a lot of half truth. The Renaissance was aided and abetted by money, a lot of money. The patrons of the arts were the feudal rulers in Italy. The Borgias etcetera. They were in effect the state and the "city states" of Italy may have been in competition with each other just as states are today. To say it was all just a birth of individual freedom I think is an error. It also was a rediscovery of the ancient arts of the past Roman Civilization which of course had a strong central state. I suggest we all admire freedom but lets not let that twist us into lies and false assumptions and analyses.
     -- Waffler, Smith     
    wow, that I agree with so much of the diversified rating's comments. We are all self governing and, without an external manifestation of such, there would be chaos where an artist would be hard pressed feed himself, let alone express himself (-; of course that doesn't account for artfully feeding himself ;-). Me thinkist it a bit much to attribute 1 individual of 1 nation responsible for destroying individualism in the artist.
     -- Mike, Norwalk     
    Yea the scum bag made a lot of great quotes if you do not know what it was that he was really concerned about.
     -- warren, olathe     
    Controlled slavery enslaves the creative imagination in many ways but thanks to the ingenuity of the free spirit slavery prods and forces the imagination to rise out of the stagnation of controlled thought thus captured thought enlivening once again that individual's imagination which is conducive to free thought. In this day, free thought is essentially more important than it normally is. The best government is the least government when one governs another. The best government is the most government when the individual governs himself. When no one responsibly governs thenself first and others after we get what America has become.
     -- Anon     
    Oscar Wilde would be better suited to a category called, "Libertine Quotes" rather than liberty quotes.
     -- Wendell, Layton, UT     
    A great artist like so many today who are persecuted. Over Bosie he lost his fame but never his heart.
     -- RBESRQ     
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