toomuchofmyself: (rugged and straightforward)
[personal profile] toomuchofmyself
Warning: This post contains nudity in the vein of that which one commonly sees in classical/high art. Just a heads up.
Several other characters have inquired about Basil Hallward's work as a painter. On the fly I have provided several off-the-cuff answers, entirely approximated. However, given that this comes up quite a bit, I have decided to put together this entry examining Basil's canon influences, the culture and art of the times in which he lived, the artistic circles in which he moved and those movements, themes and influences which would have swayed his writer, Oscar Wilde.

Basil Hallward's Idols:

Basil mentions several artists as those he admires in the course of the book. All are Old Masters, and it is of little surprise that all of them were conjectured to have been homosexuals, or in the very least, occasional boy-lovers in the style of Greek Love. It is not entirely erroneous to think that the latter reason is why Wilde included them as worthy of Basil's mention (more of the poor censored painter's veiled admissions of his own sexuality) but for the moment, let us examine them as purely artistic influences. That said, I have chosen pieces which specifically celebrate male beauty. I have also included a sample of the Greek sculpture which reflects the basis of this idealistic fixation.

"Classical Art"-- Greek and Roman sculpture.


Leonardo DaVinci


 Outside Influences
Japanisme and Orientalism
The very first pages of "The Picture of Dorian Gray take place in Basil Hallward's studio, which is richly described in the way only Wilde-- who lectured on interior design at the very beginning of his career-- could do so.

"From the corner of the divan of Persian saddle-bags on which he was lying, smoking, as was his custom, innumerable cigarettes, Lord Henry Wotton could just catch the gleam of the honey-sweet and honey-coloured blossoms of a laburnum, whose tremulous branches seemed hardly able to bear the burden of a beauty so flamelike as theirs; and now and then the fantastic shadows of birds in flight flitted across the long tussore-silk curtains that were stretched in front of the huge window, producing a kind of momentary Japanese effect, and making him think of those pallid, jade-faced painters of Tokyo who, through the medium of an art that is necessarily immobile, seek to convey the sense of swiftness and motion." 

While this reflects on the general interest at the time in all things Japanese and from the East (including Persia, Turkey and of course, Greece), I do not believe Basil's artwork reflects this interest either stylistically nor thematically. The styles and ideas of Japanese art are much more likely to influence later Impressionist painters*.  Basil as I play him, however,  has a great interest in the art-objects of Japan, collects artifacts and is happy to chatter at length with the limited scope of knowledge of any 19th century English gentleman who has never been farther than perhaps Switzerland. 

Classical Myth
Basil references multiple classic works in the course of the book. First and foremost, within the first chapter, he names Paris, Narcissus, and Adonis as classic heroes he has painted, using Dorian as his models. This may be attributed, of course, to the fact that Dorian has that exquisite youthful beauty that catered to the Hellenic ideals of the art and social circles in which Basil (and Wilde) would have moved.

Basil is also fond of Shakespeare and Byron, also referenced in the book, also staples of the Aesthetic philosophies on youth, beauty and love.

Poetry and Literature


The Art of the Times
The 19th century saw some serious schisms among artistic schools of thought. Neoclassicism was the primary art of the 18th century and many of those characteristics held through, but slowly but surely abstraction and stylization began to bleed in. By the time Oscar Wilde wrote Dorian Gray, there was suddenly a distinction between "High and Low" art, "Classicism and Avant-Garde", experimentation with style, independent schools of thought, art with international influences and the like.

Academic Classicism
This style shares much in common with Neoclassicism and was considered the "High Art" of the time. This was the art that was considered "right" and "beautiful" and what "Art" should look like. This is the art which one would see the salons. It displayed the idealized forms of classic/Renaissance art and, invisible brush-strokes, soft lighting and wet-look draperies.

*William Bouguereau

*Lord Frederic Leighton

The Pre-Raphealite Brotherhood {PRB}
John William Waterhouse

Dante Gabriel Rosetti

Symboliste and Romantic Art


English Landscape Painters

The Aesthetic Movement
Lastly, we come to the Aesthetic Movement, an art movement which of Oscar Wilde seems poster child, warden and champion.
James Abbot McNeill Whistler

William Merrit Chase

How Basil's Artwork is Shown in Film

From the 1945 film

From the 1970's film, featuring the immortal Jeremy Brett as Basil Hallward (pictured)

from the 2009 film, featuring Ben Barnes as Dorian Gray

How All of This Figures In

In Conclusion

As of writing this entry, my default response to inquires about Basil's work will be referencing James Jacques Joseph Tissot: 

This makes only marginal sense as Tissot is a woman-worshipper and primarily a society portraitist. But he also has the academic rendering and detailed attention to interior details that I imagine I would s
ee in Basil's s work.

*I have excluded Impressionism and Art Nouveau because they are far too late in the 19th century for this novel.

Male Beauty in Art {no, this is not my Tumblr, but it helped immensely with writing this post.} 

Anonymous( )Anonymous This account has disabled anonymous posting.
OpenID( )OpenID You can comment on this post while signed in with an account from many other sites, once you have confirmed your email address. Sign in using OpenID.
Account name:
If you don't have an account you can create one now.
HTML doesn't work in the subject.


Notice: This account is set to log the IP addresses of everyone who comments.
Links will be displayed as unclickable URLs to help prevent spam.


toomuchofmyself: (Default)
Basil Hallward

March 2014

232425 26272829

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Sep. 25th, 2017 04:27 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios