Darryl A. Meneweather
Art History II, Renaissance to Modernism
Instructor: Jenn Wilson
Picture of Dorian Gray, 1943-1944
Ivan Albright painted this lurid portrait for the Oscar-winning movie adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s 1891 novel The Picture of Dorian Gray. In the movie Dorian Gray played an attractive guy who trades his soul for a permanent preservation of his youthful appearance. Ivan uses an oil medium to create a more 3-d effect to his painting of Dorian Gray, and the reason the picture of Gray looks so horrid is because the artist wanted to portray the rots of Gray physchomogically to reveal the extent of his moral corruption. (ironically Dorian Gray was to be this “handsome Devil” but in the picture he looks horrific). In 1943 he was commissioned to create the title painting for Albert Lewin’s film adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. His realistic, but exaggerated, depictions of decay and corruption made him very well suited to undertake such a project. His brother was chosen to do the original uncorrupted painting of Gray, but the painting used on the film was from Henrique Medina. Ivan made the changes in the painting during the film. This original painting currently resides in the Art Institute of Chicago.(© The Art Institute of Chicago.)
When I first viewed this picture I didn’t really understand it. Like there was a lot going on and a lot to decipher, especially since I had not seen the movie. After researching the movie I understood it much more easily. In my opinion Ivan’s painting explains Dorian Gray perfectly. The fact that he sold his soul to preserve his youthful appearance leads you to believe he looks like the picture Ivan’s brother painted of Gray, but in the case of Ivan’s painting he thoroughly explains how demented Gray becomes throughout his increasingly dissolute and evil life. His clothes are really torn and he basically looks like a really old poor guy, He is bald on the top of his head and his face is completely wrinkled. And Ivan shows exactly what Gray would look like though all of his evil actions throughout his life.
The central aspect to me is actually the background of the picture. Ivan does a good job depicting Gray but he really shows like a better depiction of his evil life in the background. You see things like a black cat, which obviously indicates evil. Along with the skulls and the more mystical looking beings in the background. It’s ironic to me that Ivan doesn’t just paint an all black background to show the darkness of Gray’s behavior throughout his life but instead shows the mystical part of it. It takes a part of the story and explains it in a more out of the box kind of way. The fact that Gray sold his soul means he made a deal, and it had to be evil because theoretically God or an Angel wouldn’t want to do any deals for someone’s soul. So it was apparently dark and evil. The background of the painting basically shows the transition to me.
The Non Western Culture I looked into was the art of Indian sculptures of their many gods. I see them every time I go into the Art Institute museum and they really inspire my illustrations. The hand carved work reminds me of the sculptures of the Renaissance, although their form is not so much sculpted to be what the Indians expected the human body to look like. Their sculptures are more like vessels to channel or please their many gods.
I recently listened to a song by the Arcade Fire called “Ready to Start”. I’ve actually know this song for a long time, but it never applied to my life until now. For some reason, every time this band comes out with a CD it is applicable to my life in some way. The lyrics are basically about a boy who doesn’t want you. The main idea and punchline of it being “if i was yours, but I’m not.” which already fits me, but it becomes broader if you really listen to the song. The other main lyric being “the business men drink my blood, just like the kids in art school said they would.” I’m pretty sure my art teacher (who is basically my father) said that to me before i left my hometown. Which is completely coincidental, it was before this CD even came out. Which made me laugh like crazy when i heard this song. The once i got here, i was like, wow he was absolutely right about that. This song has really impacted my view on Chicago in a lot of ways. I love it.
In class we learned about a type of painting style called “Egg Tempera” which was used in Renaissance time to paint holy pictures or murals for churches. At the end of class our teacher mixed up a batch of egg tempera which consisted of ground color pigment, water, and the yolk from an egg. This type of paint dries very fast, and requires gentle hands to pop the sack of an egg yolk so that the yellow goop comes out but the thin membrane stays away from the pigment. Then we had to get in our groups and test the paint out. The paint felt like a mix of water-color and acrylic paint. It dries fast, can be layered on thick, but just a small drop of water makes it spread out like ink. It was hard to paint with, mostly because we had 10 minutes to draw something on paper. One of our group members is an illustrator and said he could make something awesome with the egg tempera if he had a lot of time to do so. He also mentioned how easy and fast it was to make shading and highlights with on paper. This lead the group to believe that egg tempera was a fun and great paint to use back in the old times of Da Vinci or Raphael. It dried fast, but you could do a lot with it.
The three artists we picked were Duccio from the late 1200’s, Da Vinci in the late 14, early 1500’s and a Marianne Stokes with work in the late 1800’s.
Our first image is Duccio’s “Madonna and Child” made around June 1284. This work shown above was his early Renaissance masterpiece. There were a lot of Madonna with child paintings due to the overwhelming artistic nature of the catholic church. But Duccio’s stands out as the main and most popular one it seems.
Our next image is Da Vinci’s epic “Last Super” painting made around 1495 is one of the most well-known paintings in history. Everyone knows of this painting and all of its hidden symbolism within it. It was even used in the movie The Da Vinci Code to enhance the storyline. This painting spells out Christianity, and that’s what its purpose is.
Our last picture is Marianne Stokes’s “Mélisande”. We couldn’t find much about this painting but it was made around 1895. This means egg tempera was still being used after so many decades. The woman looks like someone of royalty, it could just be a portrait of a princess or even queen.
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