Thomas Nast's drawing of Oscar Wilde as Narcissus. Date: 1894.
'Thomas Nast caricatured Oscar Wilde repeatedly during the author's 1882 American lecture tour but conceived this image a decade later in response to "The Disciple," a prose-poem published in the "The Fortnightly Review" in 1894. The speaker in that verse is the pool that captured the affections of the classical youth Narcissus. Nast here represents Wilde, the famous defender of Aestheticism stretched along a dock to gaze, Narcissus-like, at his reflection. The movement's emblematic sunflower held in his left hand is labeled "Notoriety" rather than "Art," while printed text nearby proposes avarice to be the driving force behind the author's exaggerated public personna. A dollar sign within the reflected blossom establishes the pool as a mirror of truth, a surface which transforms Wilde's lanky form into a greyhound. That image refers punningly to "The Picture of Dorian Gray" (1891), Wilde's controversial novel devoted to discrepancies between outward appearance and inner reality. When published, the caricature was captioned: "Mr. O'Wilde you are not the first one that has grasped at a shadow."' - The Met.