Does Love Imitate Art?

We have all heard the expression coined by Oscar Wilde in his essay the ‘Decay of Living’ that “Life imitates Art”, which loosely means that art sets the aesthetical benchmark we measure, perceive and value what we see and experience. But we can we also argue the same thing for love: Does love also imitate art? Do we base our expectation of love on what we experience in literature, art and film?

There is nothing in life messier and more complicated than love. We don’t get to choose who we love, or why. That’s why we call it falling. It’s a little out of our control. We can choose whether to act on it, but we can’t choose who we fall for. Love is just a whole series of weather events. Its storms and hurricanes, that come in and out, knock you off your feet, pull at your hair and leave you windswept and drowned. Some love is like a tornado that pulls you in and won’t drop back down to earth until it is good and done with you. There is the sweet, slow, smouldering loves whose embers last long into life. There are the dangerous types of love that cause you to lose yourself, and the healthy ones that help you find your best self. Some of us have only one love all of our lives. Some people experience many. F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote ‘There are all types of love in this world, but never the same love twice’. Because of its intensity, and its propensity for both comfort and suffering, love has given us some of the most beautiful art, music and literature. Some of the greatest love stories of all time have given us the most moving prose.

Anais Nin and Henry Miller, both writers, had a love affair that spanned twenty years, and their letters have become a treasured account of a passion that was as much a curse as a blessing to them both, leaving a literary legacy of passion in their wake. Anais wrote to Henry “It torments me to see you just a few hours and surrender you. When I see you, all I wanted to say vanishes”.Henry wrote “You arouse in me such a mixture of feelings. I don’t know how to approach you. Only come to me – get closer and closer to me. It will be beautiful. I promise you.”. Love stories often make their way from the pages of novels, to the silver screens. Think ‘The Notebook’, by Nicolas Sparks, with quotes like"We fell in love, despite our differences, and once we did, something rare and beautiful was created. For me, love like that has only happened once, and that's why every minute we spent together has been seared in my memory. I'll never forget a single moment of it’. Around 60% of all songs are written about love. Every radio station is a non-stop tirade of ballads and pop sonnets.

While all this makes for beautiful creative expression, it also sets our expectations very, very high. That’s because writing about the realities of normal, everyday love don’t make great reading. There is nothing poetic about small gestures of love and appreciation : a cup of coffee made with love for the other half, quiet nights on the couch, curled up together watching movies. If we expect love to imitate art, we may end missing the simple beauty of what we have. Because no love is ever ordinary.

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© 2016 Claire Inkson. All photographs copyright Claire Inkson

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