Dorian Gray is not ‘beautiful’. You cannot begin to imagine how beautiful he is. It’s stupid to tell anyone they look like Dorian Gray. Dorian Gray is not a proper character, he is an abstraction. He is infinitely beautiful; his lips are the lips of hundreds of poets. (and I don’t mean this to be a cheap metaphor.)
The love in the book is not homosexual love. It is ‘the love we don’t speak of’. It is asexual love. It is not the painter’s love for the man he is fascinated by. It is not the painter’s love for the pinnacle of his artistic creation. It is the painter’s love for his sitter – the artist’s love.
This is the most beautiful ars poetica that I have ever read.
I was dominated, soul, brain, and power by you. You became to me the visible incarnation of that unseen ideal whose memory haunts us artists like an exquisite dream. (…) You would have never understood it. I hardly understood it myself. I only knew that I had seen perfection face to face, and that the world had become wonderful to my eyes – too wonderful, perhaps, for in such mad worships there is peril, the peril of losing them, no less than the peril of keeping them. (…) And it had all been what art should be, unconscious, ideal, and remote. One day, a fatal day I sometimes think, I determined to paint a wonderful portrait of you as you actually are, not in the costume of dead ages, but in your own dress and your own time. Whether it was the Realism of the method, or the mere wonder of your own personality, thus directly presented to me without mist or veil, I cannot tell. But I know that as I worked at it, every flake and film of colour seemed to me to reveal my secret. There was love in every line, and in every touch there was passion.
– Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, chapter IX