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 trial in 1985 in which he was tried for 'acts of gross indecency'.
Here are 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 innocentis slowly 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 throughly 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.
“Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault.
[...] There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.”
— Oscar Wilde, The Preface
The story of Dorian Gray fascinated me since I heard of its existence. As a younger girl I was obsessed with the horrific dark creatures of the night, particularly the immortal ones of myth known as vampires. I believe I was fascinated by them because of their immortality. The idea of a never-ending life captured me, as I had endured the violent loss of people I loved, and would never meet or see again. Life is short and fleeting and delicate, and so the idea and stories of living forever was one that I cherished and loved to fantasize about when I read them in my books. I was also captured by the modern myth of beauty and romance that went with them. As an artist and an extremely visual person I enjoy beauty and beautiful things. Dorian Gray is not a vampire, but in many ways he resembled one. He was 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 remained forever youthful. I especially loved that he remained this way because of a painting! And how I loved 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. I had never heard or seen anyone talk quite like that, and I never will, since he died so very long ago, but when I read his story for the first time... words can't describe it, not mine anyway, but Oscar, man, Oscar, the man had a way with words.
"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
“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.