I really liked the preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray. People talk about the preface to Dorian Gray in terms of the purpose of art, the role of the artist, and the role of the critic. The purpose of art is to create beauty, the artist reveals art-not himself. The artist can express everything without the ego. The role of the critic is one of a translator who can speak of the beautiful things that he sees.
When I was younger, my mother asked her artist friend to paint a portrait of me. Before she began applying paint to her canvas, she asked for several photographs of me. These photographs were intended to supply her with sufficient images of me before her interpretation of me was created. After several months of anxiously waiting, the portrait was completed.
The portrait currently hangs in my living room, and is more eerie than enjoyable. Her portrait of me, which was intended to represent me of the age I was, was in fact an interpretation of what she imagined I’d look like as woman. I look nothing like the portrait, in fact I see more of the artist in it than me. This portrait violated Wilde’s perception of artist’s ego not appearing within their work.
But the most important focus of Dorian Gray, is the effect of the portrait on the viewer. “The nineteenth century dislike of realism is the rage of Caliban seeing his own face in a glass. The nineteenth century dislike of romanticism is the rage of Caliban not seeing his own face in a glass.”
In the novel, Dorian is Caliban. When he sees his own face, his infatuation with himself begins. This infatuation is to the same degree of Narcissus, but instead causes his destruction. Dorian cannot cope with the painting’s immortality and his mortality. He mistakes the beauty of the painting for his himself. He cannot bear to allow the art to stand for itself. Instead, like Caliban, he rages against the art.
His deal with the devil is to have the art age, and not him. His desire to become the art is unwavering and almost burdensome. His psychosis is his inability to sever his imaginary ties between the painting and him.