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1839-1894, English art critic, art historian, and novelist. Walter Pater's most influential work is a collection of essays on the Renaissance, particularly those on Sandro Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, and Michelangelo.

His work is not widely known for the originality of his ideas, but for his lush, poetic style of writing; above all he is remembered for a handful of quotations (all taken from The Renaissance: Studies in Art and Poetry).

On criticism:

"To see the object as in itself it really is," has been justly said to be the aim of all true criticism whatever; and in æsthetic criticism the first step towards seeing one's object as it really is, is to know one's own impression as it really is, to discriminate it, to realise it distinctly.
On Leonardo's Mona Lisa:
She is older than the rocks among which she sits; like the vampire, she has been dead many times, and learned the secrets of the grave; and has been a diver in deep seas, and keeps their fallen day about her; and trafficked for strange webs with Eastern merchants: and, as Leda, was the mother of Helen of Troy, and, as Saint Anne, the mother of Mary; and all this has been to her but as the sound of lyres and flutes, and lives only in the delicacy with which it has moulded the changing lineaments, and tinged the eyelids and the hands. The fancy of a perpetual life, sweeping together ten thousand experiences, is an old one; and modern philosophy has conceived the idea of humanity as wrought upon by, and summing up in itself all modes of thought and life.
And on the meaning of life:
Not the fruit of experience, but experience itself, is the end. A counted number of pulses only is given to us of a variegated, dramatic life. How may we see in them all that is to be seen in them by the finest senses? How shall we pass most swiftly from point to point, and be present always at the focus where the greatest number of vital forces unite in their purest energy?

To burn always with this hard, gem-like flame, to maintain this ecstasy, is success in life. In a sense it might even be said that our failure is to form habits: for, after all, habit is relative to a stereotyped world, and meantime it is only the roughness of the eye that makes any two persons, things, situations, seem alike.

Pater championed an idea that beauty is fundamentally sensual and subjective but found only by looking intensely and unflinchingly. He's considered by many to be the beginning of Modernist Literature, although some critics dispute his importance. He was a major influence on many British and Irish writers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, including Oscar Wilde, Ford Madox Ford, James Joyce, and Virginia Woolf.

Works

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