Does Art Imitate Life, or Life Imitate Art?



The eternal question crossed my mind when I saw the mugshot of Jeremy ‘Dreamy McMug’ Meeks that went viral last week. He looks an awful lot like Wentworth Miller did in his heyday on Prison Break. (Somehow he’s even better-looking. An unacheivable thought!)

Where to go for answers? Wikipedia of course, and the always surprising Oscar Wilde.

 … Wilde, who opined in his 1889 essay The Decay of Lying that, “Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life”… Wilde holds that …the aim of Life is to find expression, and that Art offers it certain beautiful forms through which it may realize that energy.”.[1][2]

The philosophy holds that art sets the aesthetic principles by which people perceive life, and does not imitate life. What is found in life and nature is not what is really there, but is that which artists have taught people to find there, through art. As in an example posited by Wilde, although there has been fog in London for centuries, one notices the beauty and wonder of the fog because “poets and painters have taught the loveliness of such effects…They did not exist till Art had invented them.”.[1]

I’d like to think that dreary, gray fog is a perfect parallel to a mugshot. Both are usually seen negative light, but the curious power of art can transform a hardened criminal into a pin-up over night.


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