Books andpaintings sometimes cross paths, in the storylines and the textual descriptionof an environment. A fascinating novel by Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, is about a young man’s obsession with youthful beauty. Dorian Gray is a young dapper individual who has his portrait drawn in oil by an accomplished artist. Dorian is so handsome, that the artist gets transfixed by his beauty, and aims to uncover new grounds, with the painting he made of him. During this episode he meets an aristocrat whose life outlooks persuade him to sell his soul for eternal youth – he wants to fixate his soul to the painting, marking it such that the painting will grow old, instead of him.
After his wish is granted, Dorian proceeds to live a life filled with sinful experiences,
all of which are immoral and selfish. His portrait becomes a cinematic record of every decision he takes in life and starts to grow old and even distort mortifyingly, so much so that it becomes unbearable to look at. Unable to deal with the shackles he placed his life under through experimentation of opium, sensual debauchery and corruption, he eventually goes back to his lair and tries to kill the painting, just to end his sufferings.
Instead, he ends up taking his own life, but the painting reverts back to its original
beauty, throwing out the nonsensical looks that it sported just awhile ago, right back on his own face, making him barely recognisable, for his sins. Dark as it maybe, the tale is poignant because Dorian regrets binding too much of his soul to the painting, because he never ages, he has no soul, he is just a man, with an extravagant life and eternal youth, always out for hedonistic experiences, mostly of the pleasure variety.
On a much more lighter note, and if you are up for some mystical tales, you will find that the acclaimed Turkish author, Orhan Pamuk, wrote about the heart of the country, Istanbul, during the 1500s in My Name is Red. The city of the time is explored in the backdrop of a miniaturist that gets murdered. He was working on a secret book, as ordered by the Sultan. This is when the Ottoman Empire is going strong, and the miniaturist is one of the many in a group working for the Sultan trying to translate Islamic Art in the mainframes of Western Art. The job is intensely difficult, and Orhan makes sure that the philosophical narrative does not get too carried away because that is not modernism.
When you are talking about trees, as one character in the book does, it is important to essay that the character is inherently interested in plants, but he doesn’t wish to be a plant, he wishes to be what it represents: a life in bloom, that provides shadows, refuge and even food-fodder, to other living beings. This is the year, right before Prophet Mohammad migrated to Medina from Mecca, so the decline of the Ottoman Empire is vividly described in the book. Most certainly, an inspiring, timely and point-blank read on how art influences the context of history in Turkey.
There is also the story about the Ramsay household, charted by Virginia Woolf in her
tale To the Lighthouse: Mrs. Ramsay is an elderly lady, with eight children, who hosts a party in a lighthouse, with numerous attendees and social confessions. Here, at the party you meet a lady interested in painting a portrait of Mrs. Ramsay, capturing her in all her
feminine glory, including her undercurrent tones of tension, with Mr. Ramsay. This is a much light-hearted novel on the subject of portraiture, but a poignant take on a much more matured theme of casualty/idyllic scenes forlorn. Virginia Woolf is an interesting author because she chooses to work with a subject that is rarely explored, that of a rural seascape, that is perfectly accurate and charming!