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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Visual Horror

Picture of Dorian Gray (1943-44)
by Ivan Albright
As I mentioned on RA for All, I took a trip to The Art Institute of Chicago (AIC) this week.  While there, I was struck by the painting you see here on the left.  Done by Ivan Albright, this painting was used in the film version of The Picture of Dorian Gray.  From the AIC's website (text also appeared next to the painting on the gallery wall):

Ivan Albright painted this lurid portrait for the Oscar-winning movie adaptation of Oscar Wilde's 1891 novel The Picture of Dorian Gray. In Wilde's tale, Dorian Gray commissions a portrait of himself as an attractive young man and later trades his soul for an ever-youthful appearance. As the still-handsome Gray leads an increasingly dissolute and evil life, his painted representation rots and decays, revealing the extent of his moral corruption. Albright's renown as a painter of the macabre made him the ideal choice of Albert Lewin, the director of the movie, to paint the horrific image of Gray. Although the movie was shot in black and white, Lewin filmed the painted portrait in color to emphasize Gray's shocking transformation.

I honestly had forgotten about the wonderful macabre paintings of Ivan Albright before this trip.  The AIC has a nice collection of his work cataloged on their website.

As a horror fan, it is also nice to know that this painting has an extremely prominent location as it hangs directly across from Hopper's Nighthawks and next to the doorway leading to the room that houses Wood's American Gothic.  So millions of people are getting exposed to this disturbing, yet extremely thought provoking painting whether they want to see it or not. I would love to meet the person who curated this particular section of the museum and shake his or her hand.

The visceral response I had to this painting reminded me of how I feel when I read some of my favorite horror novels.  It also forced me to remember that movies are not the only way we can consume visual horror.

I am a big proponent of whole collection Readers' Advisory.  Click here and here to see where I have talk about it before.  I also have an entire chapter in the new book about whole collection horror options.  Although I included movies, TV shows, and graphic novels as visual horror options, I did not even consider art.

Today, I am admitting my oversight.  I experienced first hand how a wonderful macabre painting by a master artist can be as appealing to the horror fan as any of these other mediums.

As a bonus link today, here is  Gothic.net's list ofthe Top Ten Horror Films of 2011. 

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