Art and the Artist, in Dorian Gray

I find it interesting that the turning point of the novel is not necessarily a dramatic moment, but rather a quiet decision made by the main character which ends up having disastrous consequences on himself and those around him. When Sybil dies, Dorian has to make a choice: he can either mourn her death as a human being he once loved, or reduce her to mere fuel for his art, making her death nothing more than inspiration for him. Due to the influence of Lord Henry, he chooses the latter, and at this point his fate is essentially sealed, his true nature is permanently scarred, and will never again be accurately reflected in his pristine and beautiful face. This decision essentially switches Dorian’s place with his painting, leaving him as a mere façade, and the painting to reflect who he really is. 

It seems to me that the painting represents Wilde’s own struggles to practice what he preaches, and keep the artist out of the art. Basil initially believes that the painting cannot be displayed, because it reveals too much about his own character, and ironically enough, this same piece of art becomes a looking glass to Dorian’s soul, becoming completely distorted from Basil’s original vision. Later in the novel, Basil seems to have had a change of perspective on his art, instead believing that true art conceals the artist, rather than revealing his true nature. This belief seems to be more closely aligned to Wilde’s, but I’m not sure if that’s the message the book itself is attempting to get across. If anything, it seems that the strong desire to completely remove the artist from his art is a destructive force thus far, implying that such a thing is impossible.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *