Oscar Wilde? James McNeill Whistler? Ralph Waldo Emerson? Apocryphal?
Question for Quote Investigator: Being consistent is important in life. Yet, additional knowledge and experience motivates new thoughts and behaviors. The following adage criticizes the straitjacket of excessive consistency:
Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.
The famous Irish wit Oscar Wilde has received credit for this saying. Would you please explore this topic?
Reply from Quote Investigator: In 1885 Oscar Wilde published an essay about the prominent painter James McNeill Whistler in “The Pall Mall Gazette” of London. Wilde contended that the philosophy of painting propounded by Whistler was inconsistent with the artworks he was creating. But Wilde was eager to forgive this lapse. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:1885 February 28, The Pall Mall Gazette, The Relation of Dress To Art: A Note in Black and White on Mr. Whistler’s Lecture by Mr. Oscar Wilde, Quote Page 4, Column 2, London, England. (British … Continue reading
Nor do I feel quite sure that Mr. Whistler has been himself always true to the dogma he seems to lay down, that a painter should only paint the dress of his age, and of his actual surroundings: far be it from me to burden a butterfly with the heavy responsibility of its past: I have always been of opinion that consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative: but have we not all seen, and most of us admired, a picture from his hand of exquisite English girls strolling by an opal sea in the fantastic dresses of Japan? Has not Tite-street been thrilled with the tidings that the models of Chelsea were posing to the master, in peplums, for pastels?
Whatever comes from Mr. Whistler’s brush is far too perfect in its loveliness, to stand, or fall, by any intellectual dogmas on art, even by his own: for Beauty is justified of all her children, and cares nothing for explanations.
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.
|↑1||1885 February 28, The Pall Mall Gazette, The Relation of Dress To Art: A Note in Black and White on Mr. Whistler’s Lecture by Mr. Oscar Wilde, Quote Page 4, Column 2, London, England. (British Newspaper Archive)|