Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life.
Sorry, no. This is Wilde’s take on mimesis, which Wikipedia explains as follows:
Mimesis (Ancient Greek: μίμησις (mīmēsis), from μιμεῖσθαι (mīmeisthai), “to imitate,” from μῖμος (mimos), “imitator, actor”) is a critical and philosophical term that carries a wide range of meanings, which include imitation, representation, mimicry, imitatio, receptivity, nonsensuous similarity, the act of resembling, the act of expression, and the presentation of the self.In ancient Greece, mimesis was an idea that governed the creation of works of art, in particular, with correspondence to the physical world understood as a model for beauty, truth, and the good. Plato contrasted mimesis, or imitation, with diegesis, or narrative. After Plato, the meaning of mimesis eventually shifted toward a specifically literary function in ancient Greek society, and its use has changed and been reinterpreted many times since then. One of the best-known modern studies of mimesis, understood as a form of realism in the arts, is Erich Auerbach‘s Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature, which opens with a famous comparison between the way the world is represented in Homer‘s Odyssey and the way it appears in the Bible. From these two seminal Western texts, Auerbach builds the foundation for a unified theory of representation that spans the entire history of Western literature, including the Modernist novels being written at the time Auerbach began his study.The Frankfurt school critical theorist T. W. Adorno made use of mimesis as a central philosophical term, interpreting it as a way in which works of art embodied a form of reason that was non-repressive and non-violent.Mimesis has been theorised by thinkers as diverse as Plato, Aristotle, Philip Sidney, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Adam Smith, Sigmund Freud, Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, Erich Auerbach, Luce Irigaray, René Girard, Nikolas Kompridis, Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, Michael Taussig, Merlin Donald, and Homi Bhabha.
Wilde’s position was, in contrast, ‘anti-mimesis’, which Wikipedia explains, partly:
Anti-mimesis is a philosophical position that holds the direct opposite of mimesis. Its most notable proponent is Oscar Wilde, who held in his 1889 essay The Decay of Lying that “Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life”. In the essay, written as a Platonic dialogue, Wilde holds that such anti-mimesis “results not merely from Life’s imitative instinct, but from the fact that the self-conscious aim of Life is to find expression, and that Art offers it certain beautiful forms through which it may realise that energy.”.Wilde’s antimimetic philosophy has had influence on later writers, including Brian Friel. McGrath places it in a tradition of Irish writing, including Wilde and writers such as Synge and Joyce that “elevate[s] blarney (in the form of linguistic idealism) to aesthetic and philosophical distinction”, noting that Terry Eagleton observes an even longer tradition that stretches “as far back in Irish thought as the ninth-century theology of John Scottus Eriugena” and “the fantastic hyperbole of the ancient sagas”. Wilde’s antimimetic idealism, specifically, McGrath describes to be part of the late nineteenth century debate between Romanticism and Realism.Antimimesis, as set out by Wilde in Decay of Lying is the reverse of the Aristotelian principle of mimesis. Far from art imitating life, as mimesis would hold, Wilde holds that art sets the aesthetic principles by which people perceive 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. Wilde presents the fogs of London as an example, arguing that although “there may have been fogs for centuries in London”, people have only “seen” the “wonderful brown fogs that come creeping down our streets, blurring the gas lamps and turning houses into shadows” because “poets and painters have taught [people] the loveliness of such effects”. “They did not exist”, asserts Wilde, “till Art had invented them.”.
Still with me? Even the Wikimedia illustration has a complicated (but fascinating) explanation, of which this is part: