Everything Popular Is Wrong By Oscar Wilde Is Incorrect

Do you know the quote “Everything popular is wrong” which is attributed to Oscar Wilde is popular, but it is wrongly worded?

This short line is indeed by the flamboyant and controversial Irish poet and playwright Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde, aka Oscar Wilde.

But the fact is this quote is INCORRECT.

The correct quote by Oscar Wilde is:

“Whatever is popular is wrong.”

The quotation is taken from the original manuscript by Oscar Wilde.

It is a lecture delivered to the Art students of the Royal Academy at their club in Golden Square, Westminster, on June 30, 1883.

everything popular is wrong

Everything Popular Is Wrong Is Incorrect

The full quotation is:

“Popularity is the crown of laurel which the world puts on bad art. Whatever is popular is wrong.” – Oscar Wilde

(Essays And Lectures By Oscar Wilde, Fourth Edition, London: Methuen & Co, Ltd., 1913, Lecture To Art Students, P. 201)

(The quote is also found here, here and Google Books.)

If you go to Google Books site, you can see many published books have quoted this incorrect “Everything popular is wrong” line.

Interestingly, this already erroneous “Everything popular is wrong” line in Timothy Ferris’s book The 4-hour Workweek is further wrongly cited the source as from Oscar Wilde’s farcical comedy play The Importance of Being Earnest.

Obviously this inaccurate quotation is found in both popular quotation sites: Brainy Quotes and GoodReads.

Beauty Of Art: Good & Bad

By the way, is there such a thing as a “good” and “bad” art?

The beauty of art is, it is subjective.

We all have different views or preferences when it comes to art.

As the old saying goes: “One man’s trash, is another man’s treasure.”

Another thing is different societies have differing traditions of art.

Be it music, movies, dance, literature, and fine art can have a radically different form depending on which country you are in.

Furthermore, our tastes also change according to which historical era we are referring to.

To each of us, the ideas of beauty vary, depending on the culture in which we are brought up.

Another key issue is our tastes can change over time as well.

In short, there is no universal ideas of aesthetic beauty.

Do you know there is this place called Museum of Bad Art (MoBA)?

It celebrates and promotes the best bad art and its slogan is: “Art too bad to be ignored“.

Art Quotations With Citations


“Art never expresses anything but itself.” – Oscar Wilde

(Intentions By Oscar Wilde, The Floating Press, 2009, The Decay Of Lying: An Observation, P. 43 & 53)

(The quote is also found in: Intentions By Oscar Wilde, Methuen & Co. Ltd., 1913, The Decay Of Lying: An Observation)


“…Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life.” – Oscar Wilde

(Intentions By Oscar Wilde, The Floating Press, 2009, The Decay Of Lying: An Observation, P. 33)

(The quote is also found in: Intentions By Oscar Wilde, Methuen & Co. Ltd., 1913, The Decay Of Lying: An Observation)


“There is nothing that art cannot express…” – Oscar Wilde

(The Picture of Dorian Gray By Oscar Wilde, Dell Publishing Company, 1968, P. 18)

(The quote is also found here.)


“Art is the only serious thing in the world. And the artist is the only person who is never serious.” – Oscar Wilde

(Oscar Wilde: The Major Works Including The Picture Of Dorian Gray, Edited And With An Introduction By Isobel Murray, Oxford University Press, 1989, Aphorisms, A Few Maxims for the Instruction of the Over-Educated, P. 570)

(The quote is also found here.)


“…every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter.” – Oscar Wilde

(The Picture Of Dorian Gray By Oscar Wilde, London: Simpkin, Marshall Hamilton, Kent And Co, Ltd, Ch. I, P. 12)

(The quote is also found in: The Complete Works Of Oscar Wilde, Volume 3 The Picture Of Dorian Gray, The 1890 and 1891 Texts, Edited By Joseph Bristow, Oxford University Press, 2000, Ch. !, P. 7)


“We work in the dark – we do what we can – we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art.” – Harry James

(The Notebooks Of Henry James, Edited By F. O. Matthiessen And Kenneth B. Murdock, New York: George Braziller, Inc., 1955, P. 122)

(The quote is also found in: The Notebooks Of Henry James, Edited By F. O. Matthiessen And Kenneth B. Murdock, The University Of Chicago Press, 1981, Notebook III, 2 February 1889-3 November 1894, P. 122)


“Art is a jealous mistress…” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

(The Conduct Of Life By Ralph Waldo Emerson, Boston: James R. Osgood And Company, 1876, III. Wealth, P. 99)


“In art, there are only two types of people: revolutionaries and plagiarists.” – Paul Gauguin

(The writings Of A savage By Paul Gauguin, Edited By Daniel Guêrin, Viking Press, 1978, P. 107)

(Note: The quote is from his letter, published in the French language daily Belgian newspaper on 23 April, 1895)


“A painting is like a person. Either you like it or you don’t.” – Georgia O’Keeffe

(ARTnews, “Georgia O’Keeffe at 90” By Mary Lynn Kotz, December 1977)


“Filling a space in a beautiful way. That is what art means to me.” – Georgia O’Keeffe

(ARTnews, “Georgia O’Keeffe at 90” By Mary Lynn Kotz, December 1977)


“How he who despises painting has no love for the philosophy in nature.” – Leonardo Da Vinci

“Come chi sprezza la pittura non ama la filosofia, né la natura.” (Italian)

(The Notebooks Of Leonardo Da Vinci, Arranged, Rendered Into English And Introduced By Edward MacCurdy, New York: George Braziller, 1955, XXVIII, Comparison Of The Arts, P. 854)

(The quote is also found here.)

(The quote in Italian is found in: Trattato Della Pittura Di Leonardo Da Vinci, Carabba Editore, 1947, Parte Prima, 8)

(The quote in Italian is also found in: Trattato Della Pittura By Leonardo Da Vinci, E-text, 2018, Primo Volume, Parte Prima, 8)

(Another source is found here.)


“That great poets imitate and improve, whereas small ones steal and spoil.” – W. H. Davenport Adams

(The Gentleman’s Magazine, Volume 272, Imitators And Plagiarists (Part 2 Of 2) by W. H. Davenport Adams, F. Jefferies, 1892, P. 628)


“Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.” – Thomas Stearns Eliot

(The Sacred Wood: Essays On Poetry And Criticism By T. S. Eliot, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1921, Philip Massinger I, P. 114)

(The quote is also found in: The Sacred Wood: Essays On Poetry And Criticism By T. S. Eliot, Methuen & Co. Ltd., 1969, Philip Massinger I, P. 125)


“Every artist was first an amateur.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

(Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson In Five Volumes, Vol. IV, Letters And Social Aims, Poems, Boston: Houghton, Osgood And Comapany, 1880, Progress Of Culture, P. 181)

(The quote is also found in: The Works Of Ralph Waldo Emerson, vol. 8, Letters And Social Aims, Fireside Edition, 1909, Progress Of Culture)


“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” – Thomas Merton

(No Man Is An Island By Thomas Merton, Boston: Shambhala, 2005, 3. Conscience, Freedom, And Prayer, P. 35)


“I see paintings or drawings in the poorest cottages, in the dirtiest comers.” – Vincent Van Gogh

(Letter To Theo Van Gogh, Translated By Mrs. Johanna Van Gogh-Bonger, Edited By Robert Harrison, Number 218, The Hague, 21 July 1882)

(The quote is also found here.)

Note: Letter to his brother Theo van Gogh, The Hague, 21 July 1882)