The Picture of Dorian Gray: A Working Script for the Stage from the Novel by Oscar Wilde

Jim Dine.
The Picture of Dorian Gray: A Working Script for the Stage from the Novel by Oscar Wilde.
London: Petersburg Press, [1968]. (12136)

Signed by the artist below the colophon. Edition A. Numbered 197 in an edition of two hundred. Bound in red velvet. 

American artist Jim Dine (b. 1935), Scottish theatrical director Robert Kidd (1943–1980), and Scottish-born producer Michael White (1936–2016) developed a script for a dramatic production based on Oscar Wilde’s 1891 novel set in Victorian London. Dine, Kidd, and White set their two-act adaptation during the 1967 social phenomenon, the “Summer of Love,” and Dine’s stage settings and costumes reflect a modern flamboyance that might characterize aspects of the time. Actor James Fox initiated the project, but he found Dine’s costume designs vulgar and refused to wear them. The play was cancelled before the first rehearsal.

Notwithstanding, ideas that emerged from the collaboration, and especially Jim Dine’s marginal drawings, notes, snippets from Wilde’s novel pasted in, and corrections to a copy of the typewritten script, have been preserved as an artist’s book published by Petersburg Press for which Dine prepared the plates. Interspersed throughout the black-printed script are color lithographs, Dine’s designs for costumes for the various scenes, and furniture for the set.

The first design for Dorian Gray’s costume presents a blonde-headed male figure clad in full-sleeved blue shirt, bell-bottom pants, and oversized boots. A note specifies “Woolworth paste jewel pins all over shoulders” and includes a strip showing the color blend for Dorian’s “Multi rainbow scarf” which drapes from his collar to his ankles. At the end of Act One is a drawing for “Dorians Cloak of loose strips of Vynyl Vinyl Vynil Colored each one a different rainbow color” and the explanation “(he wears it to go out with Henry).” Opposite that page is a careful rendering in black of a head with featureless face, plus left arm and hand. An acetate sheet printed in seven colors to depict the cloak lays over the page. Among the costumes that James Fox may have found objectionable is sketched into dialog between Dorian and his butler Victor. Dine’s notes indicate that it should be a “leopard skin dressing gown for dorian” with “blue satin ‘Y-Fronts’ underneath showing.”

In addition to furniture for the actors to occupy, Dine provided designs for bare-bulb light sources to be used on stage. For scene eight in Act One, Dine provides a “TREE LAMP” with a reflector bulb mounted to the end of a branch. On the first page of Act Two, Dine has drawn an elongated pyramidal post topped with a bulb beneath which he notes, “street lite for Grosvenor sq. only lite on stage.” A pair of yellow “snake lights” appears earlier in the book for Dorian to use when viewing his aging portrait.

Jim Dine’s paintings and prints are often associated with the Pop movement of the 1950s and 60s. He rejected that characterization claiming that the intention of Pop artists like Warhol, Johns, and Oldenburg was the objective, if ironic, depiction of objects. By contrast Dine’s purpose was to render common items in a manner that acknowledged the artist in the process. Over his career his visual art and poetry skirted such directions as Dada, Expressionism, and Performance Art.

© 2021 Jim Dine / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

The Picture of Dorian Gray: A Working Script for the Stage from the Novel by Oscar Wilde