Re-Picturing the Picture of Dorian Gray:
With Apologies to Messrs. Albright, Medina and Wilde
July 21, 2015
This week I watched (again) the 1945 version of The Picture of Dorian Gray(Albert Lewin directing Hurd Hatfield, George Sanders, Angela Lansbury), a rich blackish-brown-and-white film, smothered with exotic visual cream sauce--Hurd Hatfield's visage is like a white porcelain doll with black shark's eyes. While looking for photos, I learned there have been at least 10 film versions of Oscar Wilde's 1891 classic story of wish-fulfillment gone bad. I also learned a little about the artists who created the two outstanding "pictures".
Portraiture is one of my interests and as it happens, I've spent the last few months trying to capture the youthful and beautiful 1926 photographic likeness of one of my great aunts. At the time of the photo, she was in her early twenties and dressed like a fancy dessert in a delicious pink party dress, her hair Marcelled in auburn waves just so, as she posed in front of a dark, mysterious backdrop. Not unlike the pose of Mr. Gray.
For me, it's very difficult to get a true likeness--all it takes is for one tiny misplaced brush stroke and it's curtains. The portrait doesn't have to look like the photograph as much as it must nail something of the soul.
I had considered selling my own soul to get this picture right, but after watching the movie, I decided against it. Besides, I don't think I could get much for it.
Anyway... I had a notion to spoof the Dorian Gray theme: instead of aging, his picture goes redneck.
It seemed like a good idea at the time.
The Pitcher of Doryun Graywater
The Picture of Dorian Gray
It gets a little confusing.
Mr. Medina painted the above picture for the movie.
Basil Hallward was the artist in the movie.
As the story goes, the years fall away, Dorian remains youthful, beautiful,
but his portrait, hidden from the suspicious, ages rather badly...
The Picture of Dorian Gray
by Ivan Le Lorraine Albright
"The painting entitled Picture of Dorian Gray, used in the film, was painted on commission during the making of the film in 1943-1944 by Ivan Le Lorraine Albright, an American artist who was well known as a painter of the macabre. Created specifically for use in the film, it is now part of the art collection of The Art Institute of Chicago. Albright had to paint the picture while the movie was being made in order to show Dorian Gray's physical transformation as his evil actions changed him into a horrid image in the painting, while his actual physical appearance remained that of a young man. At the film's climax, Gray "killed" the painting by piercing it through its heart with a knife, thus killing himself when his physical appearance changed to that of the painting."
Malvin and Ivan Albright were identical twins (on the left, Malvin--on the right, Ivan. Wait--Malvin's on the right and Ivan...) To decide who would study what at The Art Institute of Chicago, they flipped a coin--Malvin got sculpture, Ivan, painting, although both were equally gifted in many mediums.
Ivan's paintings were insanely-detailed, visceral works of "magical" or "grotesque" realism, that often took years to complete, and were named long, interesting titles like Poor Room - There is No Time, No End, No Today, No Yesterday, No Tomorrow, Only the Forever, and Forever and Forever Without End (The Window).
The photo above shows the brothers working on the "before" picture of Dorian Gray for the movie, which Malvin was commissioned to paint, but for some reason, he didn't finish the job and Mr. Medina instead, painted the portrait seen in the movie.