The real Basil Hallwards


Well, two of them anyway… Discussion with commenter Noel in one of my old (and rather scant) posts about Albert Lewin’s 1945 film of The Picture of Dorian Gray touched on the fate of the original version of Dorian’s portrait (above). For some reason I’d always assumed this to have been produced by MGM’s art department despite a clear credit at the opening of the film for artist Henrique Medina (1901–1988). I no doubt miss this since my eyes always go to the credit for Ivan Albright (1897–1983), the artist responsible for the famous deteriorated final state of the picture (below). That painting is so splendidly grotesque its presence almost overpowers the entire film but its power would be lessened without the contrast of Medina’s elegant original. Examples of Medina’s other portrait works show a distinct similarity.


Noel pointed the way to photos from the LIFE magazine archives which show Ivan Albright and his identical twin brother, Malvin, at work on the portrait. (Another here.) Fascinating not only to see an early stage of the painting but also a dummy of the decayed Dorian they were using as a model.


Albright’s dissolute masterpiece can be seen at the Art Institute of Chicago, together with a number of his other works. Noel notes that Medina’s picture was bought at auction for $25,000 but its current whereabouts and ownership remain a mystery. If anyone knows more about this, please leave a comment.

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11 thoughts on “The real Basil Hallwards”

  1. Noel notes that Medina’s picture was bought at auction for $25,000 but its current whereabouts and ownership remain a mystery. If anyone knows more about this, please leave a comment.

    On Hurd Hatfield’s bio on IMDB

    “Years later, a friend of Hurd Hatfield’s bought the painting of young Dorian Gray that was used in the movie at an auction, and gave it to Hatfield.”

    I have no idea where it would have gone after Hatfield’s death in 1998, but at least it seems to be known where it went after the auction.

  2. Hi Steve. So the plot thickens… That seems to put the painting in limbo again, either passed on to friends or family, or returned to auction.

  3. I’ve nothing to add, except that I’ve seen all of the Albrights at the Art Institute many times and they really are awesome.

  4. Lucky you! I’d love to see some of those up close, reproduction obviously doesn’t do them justice.

  5. Hello again!
    It’s been a while since I last revisited Dorian Gray. Thanks for the acknowledgement John, much appreciated. I possibly am the only person developing an unhealthy obsession with the Medina portrait.

    A bit more trivia from TCM which quotes:
    “According to modern sources, director Albert Lewin admired the work of painter Ivan Le Lorraine Albright and so commissioned him to paint four portraits showing the stages of Dorian’s dissolution. Albright, who arrived in Los Angeles with his twin brother Malvin, also a painter, was paid $75,000 for the rights to the paintings. It is unclear whether Malvin helped his brother with the project. After creating the portrait of the ravaged Dorian, Albright fell behind and did not have time to complete the others. The studio then hired Henrique Medina to paint the picture of the young Dorian.”

    So luckily we got Medina’s instead of Albright’s portrait of young Dorian. Things would have been very different otherwise. Not to say that Albright’s version would be any less striking.

    Now there are more unanswered questions about said Medina portrait. As you recall in the movie, there was the scene where Dorian looks at his portrait and it had a slight sneer to it. From some unverified accounts, Ivan made changes to the portrait as the film progressed. (I’m not sure if that is correct as the ‘sneer’ portrait still has very much Medina’s signature style to it).

    So…four portraits were commissioned. With this in mind, are there two portraits by Medina or just one that had been altered? And obviously what happened to them. Thanks to Steve for the update. So Mr Hatfield did get the painting.. I wonder who has it now.

    One day.. just one day when there is a retrospective of Albright and Medina’s work, they should have these portraits displayed in one room at the Art Institute. It would make for some remarkable study.

  6. Thanks Noel, and my apologies for a delayed response, it’s been a busy month.

    I feel the film works better with two portraits by different artists, the difference between the two becomes all the more striking. As to the altered portrait, it’s possible they may have used a copy of some sort unless they felt confident enough to paint on the original. If the painting was varnished they may have been able to use a water-based paint to alter it which could then be removed afterwards without damaging the picture. So maybe there are only the two after all? I agree that seeing them together would make a good exhibition, could even be part of a themed show displaying artworks from the film world.

  7. I found the picture of dorian before it turned corrupt was beautiful. I felt almost religious about it. Powerfully attractive and mesmerizing. I want to stand and watch it rot.

  8. While continuing to search for the where abouts of the before painting of Dirian Gray, I found this in Wikipedia.
    “Both his home, Ballinterry House and his collection were inherited by his long time close friend and colleague Maggie Williams, who maintained the historic Irish country home exactly as it was at the time of Hatfield’s death. The house was sold at the end of 2006 and the entire contents of the ‘Hurd Hatfield Collection’ was sold at an auction on the premises ‘Country House Antique & Fine Art Auction’ in March 2007.”

    To quote a previous post, “the mystery thickens”. So, who owns it now? When I make my trip to Ireland, I’ll have to drive down and see what I can learn. Someone in the village will know.

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