It is interesting to view Gullvåg’s illustrations for The Picture of Dorian Gray
in light of his work with the portrait genre as such. In this book-project he has thrown himself into ‘the portrayal of the portrait’ in literature, which concerns the process between the painter and the model – in its most terrifying instance. The novel is about the picture-perfect Dorian Gray, who retains his youthful and innocent features in spite of the ravages of time and debauchery.
The free manner in which Gullvåg has approached the text has perhaps an even stronger surrealistic aspect than in his pictures for Hamsun’s Pan
. For example, Lord Henry has turned into a leopard on Dorian’s head, a fitting picture of how the former’s ingratiating rhetoric eats into the youth’s thought life. An important element in the book is Gullvåg’s larger portrait-series of Dorian Gray, where the faces are placed side by side on a foldout page. Here we are witness to the terrifying process of a figure gradually dissolving from within. Several times we also meet the novel’s good character, the actress Sibyl Vane, who does the opposite of Dorian: She allows reality and love to triumph over art. Therefore Dorian must crush her. In one of the pictures Gullvåg has painted her solely as an illuminated backbone, floating on the canvas.