Carson: have actually you ever before felt that feeling of adoring madly a beautiful male person plenty of years younger than yourself?Wilde: I have never offered adoration come anybody except myself.—From the trial of Oscar Wilde1(p91)

Ivan Albright (1897-1983) reintroduced the long-dormant layout of vanitas right into 20th-century art. Traditionally, vanitas (vanity) paints emphasized the transience of life, the futility of temporary pleasure, and also the certainty of death, thus difficult the viewer to search for a much more meaningful, and less self-centered, existence. The vanitas design template originated in north Europe in the late center Ages and also remained well-known into the 18th century.2Albright modernized it in into the people There come a Soul referred to as Ida(cover). In it, he shows a woman"s reluctant physical change from youth to middle age. In contrast, in his photo of Dorian Gray(Figure), based upon the Oscar Wilde novel, that turned far from external appearances and also focused rather on the inner life. In it Albright depicts the emotional toll and also moral degeneracy that results from Dorian"s Faustian pact to remain eternally young, to seek the aesthetic life the sensual indulgence without compunction, morally indifferent to the well-being of others. Thrilled once his portrait captured his youthful beauty, Dorian reflects:


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Ivan Albright (1897-1983), American. Snapshot of Dorian Gray, 1943-1944. Oil top top canvas, 215.9 × 106.7 centimeter (85 × 42 in). Gift that Ivan Albright, 1977.21. Photo by Robert Hashimoto. Reproduction, The arts Institute the Chicago.

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How sad that is! i shall flourish old, and also horrible, and dreadful. Yet this picture will remain always young. . . . If the were just the other way! If it to be I who was come be constantly young, and also the picture that to be to flourish old! . . . I would provide my soul for that.3(p25)

Albright"s father, Adam, urged Ivan, the first born of identical twins, and also his pair brother, Malvin, to become artists. He imbued in lock his teacher cutting board Eakins" focus on the prominence of in-depth drawing, anatomical dissection, and also realistic portrayal of the human being body. Frail at bear (weighing 3½ pounds), shy, and sensitive, the brothers mutual a private language between them. Both enlisted in the medical Corps that the American Expeditionary pressures in 1918. Ivan"s talent was easily recognized, and also he was shortly making clinical illustrations of wounds. After the war, the studied arts in Chicago, Pennsylvania, and new York.4


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Ivan Albright (1897-1983), American. Right into the human being There come a Soul dubbed Ida, 1929-1930. Oil top top canvas, 142.9 × 119.2 centimeter (56¼ × 47 in). Gift that Ivan Albright, 1977.34. Photograph by Robert Hashimoto. Reproduction, The art Institute of Chicago.


Unlike earlier vanitas art reflecting youth, old age, and also death and also emphasizing the emptiness the a life filled with product possessions, Ida stands at the threshold between youth and maturity—“poignant and also disenchanted.”4(p49)Her antique dressing table, smoked cigarette, turn off match, and also threadbare rug suggest the happen of time as when did the candle and also hourglass. She powder puff argues fading beauty; the money, ephemeral worldly power; and also the flowers, transience and decay. Ida attends come the aging challenge reflected in the mirror. Her glowing phosphorescent degeneration is reminiscent of Oscar Wilde"s declare in De Profundis(from the depth of misery), a letter from prison to his young lover, mr Alfred Douglas (Bosie):

 . . . the “Pleasure that liveth for a moment” has to make method for the “Sorrow the abideth forever” the is incarnate. . . . 5(p69)

Because that his earlier realistic yet exaggerated depictions the decay, Albright was commissioned to repaint Dorian Gray"s corruption because that screenwriter and director Albert Lewin"s MGM movie adaptation that Wilde"s book in 1943. Pair brother Malvin was asked to carry out the initial uncorrupted paint of Gray, although his painting at some point was no used. A live actor, Skeets Noyes, posed with props, placing congealed chicken blood on his hands for the corrupted Dorian painting. Dorian (Figure) put on a frayed and also torn suit, his hands spanned with blood, his confront grizzly and pockmarked, his eye glaring together if possessed. In ~ Dorian"s left is a victorian chair, above it a clock; come his ideal is an Egyptian cat statue. The movie is black and white, but the portrait appears in lively Technicolor.2With each of Dorian"s non ethical acts, the painting becomes much more hideous until, in a desperate attempt to destroy it, he stabs his painted self, not to renounce evil however to be freed indigenous his conscience, and also dies; the paint then reverts come the youthful initial Dorian.

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The novel is sometimes understood as a preamble to Oscar Wilde"s own life. Like Dorian Gray"s pact, Wilde"s lawsuit versus Bosie"s father, the Marquess that Queensbury, for sexual slander initiated a sample of self-destructive options that resulted in his conviction (under one unjust law) because that indecent actions with men. His denials in court the his well-documented homosexual encounters through youthful male prostitutes were his downfall (epigraph). Omnia vanitas.