Monday, October 22, 2012

DRAWING ON THE PAST: In Homage to Oscar Wilde

It's the 158th anniversary of the birth of one of my idols -- Oscar Wilde. Ages ago (when I was still in high school!) I wrote my first thematic analogy paper that examined the similarities between The Picture of Dorian Gray and Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Little did I know that essay would eventually lead me into a world of similar content comparisons in crime and supernatural fiction. It seems to have become my trademark as anyone who reads this blog may have already discovered.
In honor of Oscar's natal anniversary I offer up a variety of illustrations from his brilliant tale of terror and crime.

We start with the thoroughly aged and corrupted portrait as revealed in the final scenes from the 1945 movie adaptation starring Hurd Hatfield, George Sanders and Angela Lansbury. I believe this color photo was taken as a screen capture from the extras available on the DVD.  The film itself is in black and white and yet I found several color photos of Hatfield's portrait both before and after the transformation.

Next, a young illustrator and art student who goes by the web name of "spyders".  This brilliantly realized version was found at the website DeviantArt.

This one is by artist Stephen Alcorn as part of a series of relief block prints interpreting literary characters.

The Dell paperback version from the 1950s. The artist got it completely backwards here. Strange.

Another cartoon interpretation.  I was unable to identify the artist or its source.

From a graphic novel version of the book as retold and illustrated by Ian Edgington and Ian Culbard:

Artist Dan Hipp's idea for a cover on a non-existent edition of Wilde's novel.

Basil Hallward and Dorian admire the portrait before it begins its gruesome transformation. Taken from an illustrated edition, neither publisher nor artist was attributed on the website where I found it.  For shame.

And finally...a publicity still from one of the most infamous (and horrible) movie versions. An utterly wrong adaptation of the tale set in mod 1970 starring Helmut Berger and including various absurd sex scenes and lots of nudity. I like to think that Oscar would most likely have found this movie version  hysterically funny.


  1. Beautiful illustrations. The (horrible) vividness of the blue eyes in the cartoon version is pretty eye-catching.

  2. Some great stuff here John, thanks. In the case of the 1945 Hurd Hatfoeld adaptation, the portrait (before and after as it were) was in fact shown in colour even though the rest of the movie was in black and white. Writer-director Alebert lewin (who made the even more delirious PANDORA AND THE FLYING DUTCHMAN) had used the same technique in his adaptation of maugham's THE MOON AND SIXPENCE. It was also used for one of my favourite fantasy movies of the er, PORTRAIT OF JENNIE.

    1. Thanks for that info, Sergio. Just goes to show I have never seen the movie in color. I saw it years ago when I was a kid on a black and white TV. Now I'll have to find a copy of the most recent DVD version. I never knew that about Portrait of Jennie either and I've defintley seen that a few times. Maybe my memory is just fading.

  3. If you get the most recent DVD of JENNIE it should have preserved the TechniColor insert at the finish as well as the tinting used for the storm climax. Just adds to the spetacle of that wonderful if absurdly over-produced movie (but by then Selznick was incapable of making movies any other way seemingly).