The Picture of Dorian Gray is the only novel Oscar Wilde ever wrote. He wrote a series of short stories, some poetry, essays and dialogues, and a few plays, but the novel is one of his most well known works.
At the time it was written it scandalized the public for its 'immoral' and homoerotic theme. It caused a great deal of outrage against the writer and was in fact used against him at his famous trial in 1985 when he sued a man for libel and he was accused of commiting 'acts of gross indecency'.
Here I have posted a few of the illustrations from the book including the cover, the summary and the 'about the author' flap illustrations.
The book itself is about a young man who, beginning as a complete innocent is quickly corrupted by the words of a friend. His first step into the spiral of deadly sin begins with his wish that a life sized portrait of himself bear the scars brought on by time and life's experiences while he remain young forever and his statement "I would sell my soul for that!".
Oscar Wilde spins this dark tale of a double life beautifully with a thoroughly beautiful use of dialogue and philosophy of the aesthetes of his time. The tale is a classic and tragic story about 'the masks we wear' and the hypocrisy of the age.
"Words! Mere words! How terrible they were! How clear, and vivid, and cruel! One could not escape from them. And yet what a subtle magic there was in them! They seemed to be able to give a plastic form to formless things, and to have a music of their own as sweet as that of viol or of lute. Mere words! Was there anything so real as words?"
-OSCAR WILDE, The Picture of Dorian Gray
The story of Dorian Gray fascinated me since I heard of its existence. As a younger girl I was obsessed with tales of horror and gothic romance. My favourite stories revolved around vampires. I believe I was fascinated by them because of their immortality. The idea of a never-ending life captured me, as at a young age I had already endured the violent loss of people I loved, and would never have the chance to either meet or see again. Life is short and fleeting and delicate. To me the idea of living forever - of never having to experience the loss of another loved one again - was a wonderful one. Stories of eternal life were cherished and I loved to fantasize about them when I read such tales in my books. I was also a romantic and the myth of beauty and romance that were mixed into vampire tales were oh so seductive to my young mind.
The character of Dorian Gray is not a vampire, but in many ways he resembles one. He is forever young and beautiful and with his youth and good looks he used his vitality to suck away the lives of others and bring them to ruin while he remains forever youthful - much like a vampire sucks the blood of a human and literally destroys them to keep itself alive. Dorian Gray is like a metaphorical vampire, and that is why I started reading the book. I especially loved the idea that he remained young because of a painting - and boy do I love to paint! But when I picked up the book it was more than Dorian Gray's beauty and immortality that kept me reading. It was Oscar Wilde's words. His witticisms and the way he wrote - I had never read anything quite like it! I could almost hear his voice telling me the story as if it were a casual conversation. He fascinated me immediately, and as I read his book I became interested in his life. I wanted to feel closer to a writer who, in an age when homosexuality and homosexual themes were taboo subjects, chose to write a book like this anyway. I thought him incredibly brave.
I read Dorian Gray from beginning to end - devoured the book, in fact - and then I went on to read about Oscar, and my suspicions of his bravery for writing such a controversial book for that age were proven correct. I admired him immensely and went on to read every other piece he wrote, along with books which wrote about his life and the famous trial. I learned a lot about him and he will always be a man I greatly admire for his talent with words and for his bravery in enduring the pain he did in prison, simply because he chose to love whoever he pleased.
“If a man treats life artistically, his brain is his heart”
― Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray
The video is a screen recording of the blurb preview of my illustrated version of Dorian Gray. The illustrated book and the design of it were my thesis project at Sheridan College. The project involved a lot of work in terms of both design and illustration.
With this illustrated version of The Picture of Dorian Gray, I decided to take the story and bring it into the new century by approaching the narrative with a fresh take on the characters and design of the novel. I created a total of twenty-nine water colour and ink illustrations (this includes the cover art and the two spot illustrations on the flaps of the book jacket). The illustrations portray the characters in attire that is inspired by modern fashion but influenced by the nineteenth century dandy. For the design of the book itself I mixed a bit of the traditional style of book design using flourishes, and borders for a classic feel. I Still wanted it very much in keeping with the victorian style, I just added my own flare to it.
It was a project wrapped up in a story I am very passionate about and am thoroughly happy to have had the chance to explore and remodel in my own way.