Friday, February 22, 2008

Ivan Albright and "The Picture of Dorian Gray"

It's not very often I pull out Blogger's "large" photo setting, but "The Picture of Dorian Gray" by Ivan Albright deserves it. If you click on the photo you'll get a still larger version, but even that doesn't do justice to this magnificent painting.

The original is enormous -- 85" high by 42" inches wide -- and is housed at the Art Institute of Chicago. It was commissioned for MGM's 1945 version of Oscar Wilde's novel.

Albright lived and worked in the Chicago area almost his entire life, from 1897 to 1983. He was a prolific painter, engraver and printer, despite the fact that a single painting could take years to complete. Wikipedia says, "Albright's typically dark, mysterious works are some of the most meticulously executed paintings ever made, often requiring years to complete. Lace curtains or splintered wood would be recreated using brushes of a single hair."

Earlier in this blog I called out decay for being one of horror's cliches, and I still stand by that. But decay isn't a look Albright adopted for this one painting. It was something he specialized in, depicting it in a series of large-scale portraits and still lifes with the most minute, obsessive and original detail. There is no one else like him.

I could look at one of Albright's paintings for hours and still feel as though I hadn't seen the entire thing. That's especially true of "The Picture of Dorian Gray." It's by turns horrifying and incredibly beautiful, once you get past the initial shock of seeing it. If you're ever in Chicago, visit the Art Institute and make sure you get the opportunity to stand in front of this piece. It's something you'll never forget.

Visit the Ten Dreams Gallery for more examples of Albright's work. (To see larger versions, click on the thumbnails even though it looks like you can't -- Ten Dreams has a wonky interface that I think is intended to thwart picture grabbers.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Whenever my wife and I visit this picture in the Art Institute (and we always do whenever we go), we end up in the most interesting conversations with people we meet who are also looking at the picture!