Speaking of his friend, the painter James Abbott McNeil Whistler, Oscar Wilde once said,
“Mr. Whistler always spelt art, and I believe still spells it, with a capital ‘I,'”
a legendary put-down applicable to far too many artists, writers, and other creative types.
Wilde, the author of The Importance of Being Earnest, and The Picture of Dorian Gray, was one of the great wits of his age. His target was one of the first American modern artists, best known today for a portrait called by most “Whistler’s Mother,” seen less often in art books and more in sentimental greeting cards and even a postage stamp. This, rather than the above quote, would have horrified Whistler, who intended the painting to be a dispassionate revolutionary statement of art for art’s sake. He had titled it Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1.