2 of 12 portraits of Oscar Wilde
by Napoleon Sarony
albumen panel card, 1882
12 in. x 7 1/4 in. (305 mm x 184 mm)
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A wit and dramatist, Wilde was renowned as an aesthete from an early age. His unconventional behaviour, witty and paradoxical remarks and dandified pose brought him notoriety while still an undergraduate at Oxford. His period of greatest creativity, including the publication of The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891) and a succession of brilliant comedies culminating in The Importance of Being Earnest (1895) was cut short by two years' imprisonment as a result of his love affair with Lord Alfred Douglas. Sarony's photograph, taken in New York in January 1882, shows Wilde wearing full aesthetic garb and preparing to proclaim his creed of art and beauty to audiences across North America.