The Picture of Dorian Gray

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The Picture Symbol Icon
The painting itself is an overarching, ever-present symbol in The Picture of Dorian Gray, not just in the text but to nearly all of its characters. Though physically it is nothing more than a two-dimensional object, it becomes the main antagonist of their lives and has such far-reaching and powerful influences that it seems almost to be more alive than Dorian himself. It represents beauty, mortality, time, and art, all the major themes of the book, and its degradation literally presents to us the dangers inherent in these ideas.
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The Picture Symbol Timeline in The Picture of Dorian Gray

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Picture appears in The Picture of Dorian Gray. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Surfaces, Objects and Appearances Theme Icon
Art and the Imitation of Life Theme Icon
...Basil Hallward’s house. Lord Henry Wotton and Basil are together in the studio, considering the portrait that Basil has been working on, of a slim, handsome youth. Henry praises it very... (full context)
The Mortality of Beauty and Youth Theme Icon
Surfaces, Objects and Appearances Theme Icon
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Basil says he has put too much of himself into the painting to exhibit it. Lord Henry, not understanding, thinks that Basil is ridiculous for being vain,... (full context)
Chapter 2
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Art and the Imitation of Life Theme Icon
Influence Theme Icon
...lips parted in curiosity for these new ideas, Dorian is in perfect form for Basil’s painting. Basil lets them go into the garden for air and excitedly carries on painting, sure... (full context)
The Mortality of Beauty and Youth Theme Icon
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Art and the Imitation of Life Theme Icon
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...interested in faithfulness and lasting, so they agree to have a capricious friendship. Basil is painting with a great passion. When he is finished, Henry congratulates him. It is certainly the... (full context)
The Mortality of Beauty and Youth Theme Icon
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Art and the Imitation of Life Theme Icon
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...ways, Basil getting increasingly upset until he grabs a knife and takes it to the painting. Dorian cries out. He now feels so much a part of the painting that he... (full context)
Chapter 8
Surfaces, Objects and Appearances Theme Icon
Art and the Imitation of Life Theme Icon
...hangs in the back of his mind like a dream, but then he sees the portrait covered by a decorative screen and remembers what he saw. He thinks he must have... (full context)
Chapter 9
The Mortality of Beauty and Youth Theme Icon
Surfaces, Objects and Appearances Theme Icon
Art and the Imitation of Life Theme Icon
Dorian requests that Basil do a portrait of Sybil. Basil agrees but really wants Dorian to sit for him again himself. Dorian... (full context)
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...strived in his art and because of this, he had worshipped him. He had created portrait after portrait, comparing him to heroes of history, until the fateful day when he vowed... (full context)
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Surfaces, Objects and Appearances Theme Icon
Art and the Imitation of Life Theme Icon
Basil, set to go home, reaffirms the importance of Dorian and the painting to him, and Dorian reassures him that he sees the confession merely as a compliment.... (full context)
Chapter 10
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...to get suspicious of his servant Victor, imagining him sneaking a glance at the covered portrait. He organizes for his housekeeper to bring him the key to the schoolroom at the... (full context)
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Dorian finds a morbid Venetian embroidery to wrap the painting in. He considers that it may once have shrouded a corpse and now its task... (full context)
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As he covers the painting, Dorian’s pain at seeing the changed face is more intense than ever. It seems that... (full context)
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...Mr. Hubbard is glad to do the job, and with his helpers carries the covered painting to the top of the house. While they are occupied with the back-breaking task, Dorian... (full context)
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Dorian enjoys a moment of relief, knowing that the painting is shut away. But soon, he worries that the servant Victor has returned from his... (full context)
Chapter 13
The Mortality of Beauty and Youth Theme Icon
Surfaces, Objects and Appearances Theme Icon
Art and the Imitation of Life Theme Icon
...see his soul just as he wished. As he flings off the cover of the portrait, Basil lets out a cry of horror at the state of his once most beautiful... (full context)
Chapter 19
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Dorian likens the painting to a quote about “a face without a heart”. This reminds Henry of another quote... (full context)
Chapter 20
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Surfaces, Objects and Appearances Theme Icon
Art and the Imitation of Life Theme Icon
...he becomes more and more distressed, he notices that red stains have grown on the painting, like blood. He considers making a confession. His own motives now seem completely unclear to... (full context)
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Art and the Imitation of Life Theme Icon
In a frenzy, Dorian grabs the murder-weapon. He wants to kill the painting that has destroyed his life. As he strikes, a terrible cry is heard by his... (full context)