Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Flesh eaters

In the strange history of paintings created for the movies, Ivan Albright’s The Picture of Dorian Gray is certainly up there. The American painter was commissioned to make what turned out to be his most famous work for the 1945 movie of the same name directed by Albert Lewin. 

The Picture of Dorian Gray was shot in black and white with the depictions of Dorian Gray's deterioration appearing in shocking colour. In fact four paintings were used starting with a rather stolid piece of work by Henrique Medina based (like Albright’s painting) on a dressed dummy. 

Initially the studio had a brilliant idea; get Ivan Albright’s twin (really) brother Malvin to make the first painting. Fortunately he was also an artist. The publicists even arranged for photos of the two brothers to be published in Life magazine standing at their ‘painting stations’ as it were. Life breathlessly told its readers that the twins had “made the rounds of the local insane asylums, alcoholic wards and hospitals for the incurably diseased” for their research. 

After the movie was completed Ivan Albright’s painting was purchased by the Art Institute of Chicago where it hangs (or did a couple of years ago) opposite that American classic Nighthawks by Edward Hopper.

Images: Top to bottom left to right, the Albright twins pose for Life magazine with the model for the final portrait, actor Hurd Hatfield confronts the first portrait and the last portrait, and the first and last portraits (Albright on the right) as they appear in the movie. Sources: thanks to underpaintings, Archives of American Art, Life magazine and