A Hymn to Intellectual Beauty: Creative Minds and Fashion
One should either be a work of art, or wear a work of art. Oscar Wilde
Distrust any enterprise that requires new clothes. Henry David Thoreau
Two great thinkers positing two very different attidudes to dress. The choice is clear—we’re with Oscar Wilde. Taking its title from Shelley’s poem, this blog celebrates “intellectual beauty”— the style and dress of artists, composer, writers, and other creative people. The exuberant self-styling of figures such as Oscar Wilde and Salvador Dalí is well known, but the mode of dress favored by other artists has received little attention.
Why artist and writers? I want to debunk once and for all the notion that an interest in dress is frivolous, that one can’t be an intellectual and serious about clothes at the same time. To invoke Wilde again: “It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances. The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible.”
I seek to address this clichéd notion in two ways—through words and images. The words come from varied sources: the resplendent subjects themselves, biographers, and contemporay witnesses, many famous in their own right. When pronounced by the artists themselves, the remarks read like manifestoes. This is certainly the case with Mishima’s statements about body building and Louise Nevelson’s confession of how her lifelong interest in clothes affected the way she was seen by others.
The eloquence of the citations equals the power of the images. Refinement in dress inspires rapture. We look at the images of Byron and Poe more searchingly after reading Coleridge’s and Baudelaire’s comments about them. Taken together, these creative individuals form a peacock’s gallery who enhnced the world in which they lived embodying the idea of “intellectual beauty” at its finest.