Have you ever found a painting that felt connected to a famous book? Many paintings and artworks share similar themes with “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” such as the idea of a corrupted soul, the power of art, the obsession with beauty, and the outcomes of wrongdoing. Before we explore those, let’s give a quick summary of what happens in the novel of Oscar Wilde. But first, here’s a heads-up! If you haven’t read The Picture of Dorian Gray‘s story yet, you might want to do that before we talk about it in detail.
A Canvas Holding Secrets
Dorian Gray, a stunningly handsome young man, has his life changed forever when he sees his own portrait. What he doesn’t know is that this portrait shows the reflection of his soul.
“Give man a mask, and he will tell the truth.” -Oscar Wilde
It’s a deal that makes the portrait age and shows the marks of his wrongdoings, while Dorian stays forever young. It’s a pact that’s quite unsettling and leads to a story full of vanity, beauty, and the unavoidable consequences of our actions.
The Temptation of Lord Henry
But there’s more to the story than a mere portrait. Enter Lord Henry Wotton, a character whose charm and wit are as captivating as they come. Lord Henry becomes Dorian’s guide on a journey that beckons toward hedonism, pleasure, and self-indulgence. His words are like a siren’s call, luring Dorian into a world where morality becomes an afterthought.
As Dorian succumbs to Lord Henry’s persuasion, he descends into the shadows of moral decay. Vanity becomes his constant companion, driving him to commit unspeakable acts, each etching its mark upon the aging portrait. It’s a descent into darkness that leaves you questioning the very essence of good and evil.
The Startling Awakening
As Dorian’s portrait becomes increasingly grotesque, his own beauty remains untouched, serving as a stark reminder of the horrors he’s wrought. It’s a moment of shocking awakening, a realization of the abyss into which he’s fallen. But can he find redemption, or is it already too late?
“How sad it is! I shall grow old, and horrible, and dreadful. But this picture will remain always young. It will never be older than this particular day of June… If it were only the other way! If it were I who was to be always young, and the picture that was to grow old! For that—for that—I would give everything! Yes, there is nothing in the whole world I would not give! I would give my soul for that!”— Dorian Gray, looking at his portrait
Art and Oscar Wilde’s Ideas
In the novel, we can see what Wilde thought about art, beauty, and morality. He believed that art should be enjoyed just for itself, without trying to teach any lessons about right or wrong. He also went against the strict rules of Victorian times when it came to what was considered morally correct and how people should express their sexuality. Instead, he praised the Greek ideas of beauty and sensuality.
But at the same time, he also showed how dangerous it could be to chase after beauty and pleasure without thinking about the consequences or the state of one’s soul. Wilde suggested that there’s a balance between what’s inside a person and how they appear on the outside. He thought that no one could avoid facing the consequences of their actions.
The novel acts as a moral story that warns us about losing our innocence and corrupting our souls when we become too obsessed with looking good and seeking pleasure without any care for the results.
Paintings with Meaning – How Art Reflects Life
There are many paintings or artworks that have similar meanings or themes to The Picture of Dorian Gray. These artworks explore corruption, art’s influence, beauty’s appeal, and the outcomes of wrongdoing.
Narcissus by Caravaggio
This mesmerizing painting portrays the mythological figure Narcissus, who, much like Dorian, becomes entranced by his own reflection, leading to his ultimate demise. Caravaggio’s work explores the perils of narcissism and vanity, where the line between identity and illusion blurs.
The Scream by Edvard Munch
An iconic masterpiece that encapsulates existential anguish and despair. The distorted figure in the painting mirrors Dorian’s inner torment, reflecting the alienation and anxiety that societal pressures can impose upon us.
The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch
A triptych that paints the human journey from innocence to corruption, echoing the Christian doctrine of original sin and its repercussions. Bosch’s surreal and nightmarish imagery parallels Dorian’s transformation from innocence to moral decay.
In summary, “The Picture of Dorian Gray” isn’t just a regular book. It’s a deep look at human life. As we read it, we’re reminded about how art, being good, and our choices all connect. So, whether you love art or just want a good story, read Wilde’s book. It will guide you through the twists and turns of human desires and what happens when we make choices.