Visual Rhetoric: How to communicate a strong concept.

Visual Rhetoric Featured

Visual Rhetoric Ad “What lies under” made by Ferdi Rizkiyanto (2011).

In my language and semiology classes in the university, I learned that visual rhetoric was born from the rhetoric of literature. The one who noticed this was Roland Barthes in 1964, as he realized that the figures of speech as narrative techniques were being used on ads as well. Through the text by María Acaso: The visual language (El lenguaje visual), I will take you through the world of visual rhetoric, showing you the narrative techniques in the world of pictures. Visual rhetoric is very important to communicate a concept in a powerful way, and thus, if you’re interested on finding techniques to improve your communication skills, whether you are a photographer, an artist or a graphic designer, I recommend you to keep reading this article. I will be explaining this in the easiest way possible, although I do recommend you to read more about semiology/semiotics later on to get a deeper understanding of the subject.

Before getting started, I consider that it is important to remember the ‘figure of speech’ definition, as it is what makes visual rhetoric possible.

“A figure of speech or rhetorical figure is figurative language in the form of a single word or phrase. It can be a special repetition, arrangement or omission of words with literal meaning, or a phrase with a specialized meaning not based on the literal meaning of the words.”

(“Figure of speech” defined on Wikipedia).
Maria Acaso gives a similar definition to the concept of rhetoric, before starting to talk about the visual rhetoric figures:

“Rhetoric […] can be defined as the system used to transmit a different sense to the one that originally corresponds to a certain concept, existing between the different concept and the original concept some sort of connection or similarity”.

(Translated from María Acaso, 2006).
This way, visual rhetoric is shaped by thirteen main figures, which at the same time are classified into four groups according to María Acaso. I will be defining them in the next paragraphs, by making my own comments based on what I read in Acaso’s text “El Lenguaje Visual”. Let’s get to know the figures of visual rhetoric!
Visual Rhetoric Metaphor
Visual Rhetoric Analogy
Visual Rhetoric Metonymy
  1. Metaphor example on advertising visual rhetoric. By BirdLife South Africa.

  2. Analogy example on advertising visual rhetoric. Save Our Sisters Campaign.

  3. Metonymy example on advertising visual rhetoric. By Heinz.

1- Substitution.


In the world of visual rhetoric, a metaphor occurs when a visual element is substituted with another one. This substitution has to be made according to arbitrary similarities between both elements; which means the metaphor is the author’s personal statement on visual representations. A good example of a metaphor is when a character is described as a “gold-haired” person. The character does not actually have gold hair, but blonde hair, and thus a metaphor is created to describe the hair in a more romantic way.


We’re talking about an allegory when we see many metaphors at the same time. A very common case of this can be seen on religious representations. For example, gods in Hinduism are often a collection of metaphors that symbolize different qualities of the represented god, often established by conventions. We can see a precise example of this on the Abused Goddesses Lakshmi ad, although of course many other figures of visual rhetoric are also present in the picture.


This one is very similar to metaphor, except that the substitution is made by contiguity criteria. This means that the substituted element and the element that substitutes it are both related by a physical proximity or a notorious similarity. For example, to replace three kings with three crowns is a metonymy, as kings usually wear crowns.

Visual Trick.

The visual trick is a visual rhetoric figure in which something that hasn’t been represented is interpreted. In visual rhetoric, according to various authors, every linear perspective representation is actually a visual trick. Escher’s work can also be interpreted as visual tricks, as do certain paintings that represent different shapes at the same time.


This is a classic visual rhetoric figure. It is about giving human qualities to an object or an animal, making it dance or sing. It is used widely in ads and stories, such as Disney’s Cinderella.

Visual Trick visual rhetoric
Personification visual rhetoric
  1. Visual Trick example in advertising visual rhetoric. By Praktiker.

  2. Personification in advertising visual rhetoric. By Pledge.

2- Comparison.


An opposition is born when two objects are compared by what makes them notoriously different. By this, I mean that both objects are being compared because of their differences. A clear example of this would be the Ying and Yang, which features the feminine vs. the masculine; the day vs. the night.


We are facing a parallelism when the objects compared are similar. To be more specific, it is when two elements are being compared based on their similarities. An example of this would be that both Japanese people and people from Galicia, Spain, are especially good in making seafood. On ads, parallelism can be used to compare a cheetah’s speed to that of a fast car.


Gradation is a type of parallelism in which the concept of scale has been included. It is widely used on graphic designs, when there are more than two elements being compared. When a gradual change is made to transform an element into another, we are witnessing a gradation.

Opposition visual rhetoric
parallelism visual rhetoric
samadhi yoga visual rhetoric
  1. Opposition example in advertising visual rhetoric: it is shown how Lego Bricks boxes have a lesser amount of bricks than Loc Blocs.

  2. Parallelism example in advertising visual rhetoric: The camel has added power by looking like a cheetah, as does the Volkswagen with the Turbo Diesel Injection.

  3. Gradation example in advertising visual rhetoric. By Samadhi Yoga. 

3- Adjunction.


On visual rhetoric, an anaphora can be seen when an element is repeated multiple times. This repetition can happen inside the design, but it can also mean the repetition of the design itself. For example, Andy Warhol used to do this with his work, to demonstrate that art had stopped being a unique piece of work.


The anadiplosis is a figure of visual rhetoric in which the beginning and the end are represented in the same scene. In general, the dimension of time is needed to use this figure, which is why it is more common on movies and fairly uncommon on static images. However, there are static images that use anadiplosis, and that can be a very strong resource; such as the Ouroboros (the snake that bites its own tail).


This one is a fairly common figure in visual rhetoric. It is about exaggerating certain features in an unrealistic or deliberate way, in order to make a more direct statement. A good example of this is the one on the Tubrica ad, in which an elephant can be seen walking over one of the company’s products: a pipe. Here, the hyperbole is used to show the pipe’s resistance, by being able to stand an elephant walking over it. Iveco uses a similar resource with its tow, showing it’s capable of carrying anything necessary, even a heavy elephant.

Borrowing / Appropiation.

It is a borrowing when the style or the work of a different artist is used in order to make a statement. For example, Marcel Duchamp’s parody of the Mona Lisa is a borrowing; actually, it is “appropriation”.

4- Suppression.


Deleting an element that can strongly change the picture’s meaning is an ellipsis. The example María Acaso shows us is that of the elimination of a face’s features. The example shows a picture with an empty face: it doesn’t have a nose, nor does it have neither lips nor eyes, changing the meaning of the face shown to us by eliminating these crucial features.

prada visual rhetoric
Recycling Visual Rhetoric
  1. Anaphora example in advertising visual rhetoric. By Prada.

  2. Anadiplosis example in advertising visual rhetoric: Where it starts, it ends. Recycling symbol, poster made by Anton Shlyonkin.

  3. Hyperbole example in advertising visual rhetoric. Cheez-It Ad. 

Visual Rhetoric: Conclusions and final comments.

Visual rhetoric is widely used in ads, graphic design, art and photography. Without a doubt, it is a powerful tool to communicate concepts in a creative way, and it is always a good thing to study for a second and a third time the different figures of speech to give ourselves ideas on how to transmit a concept.

We have to remember, however, that visual rhetoric is a heritage from the world of literature and oral language; which is why it wouldn’t be a bad thing that a creator of images was also a passionate reader. Figures of speech can give us ideas on how to visually represent things; imagination is also unraveled when reading literature, which is why my advice is to read works of literature that contain lots of figures of speech if you’re feeling with little to no imagination.

Finally, it is important to add that the thirteen visual rhetoric techniques mentioned above are not the only ones that exist, and many of them can happen all at once, together, on a single picture. Since it is indeed a complex subject, it is important to keep studying figures of speech and to deepen your knowledge even more.

Also, if you want to check out an artist who constantly uses visual rhetoric on her photographs, I strongly recommend you to see Brooke Shaden’s work. You can also check out my fine art gallery to see how I’ve used visual rhetoric in my own body of work.

If you enjoyed this article, or you have any doubts, you’re welcome to write down a comment. I always enjoy answering!

María Acaso (2006). El Lenguaje Visual. Barcelona, Buenos Aires, México: Paidós.
Appropriation visual rhetoric
Elipsis visual rhetoric
  1. Borrowing / Appropriation example in advertising visual rhetoric. By Lipton.

  2. Elipsis example in advertising visual rhetoric: Key letters were deleted in order to deliver the message. Ad by J&B Scotch Whisky.

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yuliana guédez forgiarini

I’m interested on international and individual concepts related to human beings. Naufragia is my open diary with an emphasis on photography, design and art, as well as humanist investigation. I search and dive deep in every project until I reach its soul. I’m open for commissions and good conversations. Want to join my adventures?

Our identity… Who are we in this world?

Who are we in this world? Our identity.

Artwork © Naufragia. By Yuliana Guédez Forgiarini.

Who are we in this world?

We are selfish. We know that we have features that define us, as well as our personality, our past, our profession and interests… but, are we only that? Who are we in this world?

A name. Am I a name that has been given to my by my parents? How many people are out there with the same name as I? Who are we in this world besides being our parent’s children? Who are we in this world, beyond what our DNA says about us? We are human. “We are all the same”, said a communist. “To show people’s individuality is the most important”, said a capitalist. But if we are all the same, why are there so many differences between us? And if we are all so different, why are we all so similar as a species? Humans are selfish, and search for glory in war. Humans search for peace, and when it is obtained, they become bored. Humans always seek to be better in their personal ambitions. What does it mean to be a ‘good’ person? Do good people exist? Do entirely bad people exist? We pollute the planet –our home– and yet it doesn’t matter as long as we are confortable…

Artwork © Naufragia. By Yuliana Guédez Forgiarini. «Pasado» means «Past».

Human beings.

I recently saw in the news that Facebook had created robots that had developed a language of their own, incomprehensible for us humans. Because of this, the creators decided to turn off the robots.

Who are we in this world? Our ability to communicate, which differentiates us from animals, could soon be emulated –if not overpowered– by our own creation: Artificial Intelligence.

We are water –blood–, earth –body–, air –mind– and fire –temperature and emotion–… but are living things are this, right?

Human beings kill and eat just for pleasure. Human beings have sex for pleasure too, which differentiates us from many animals, as they just seek reproduction. But human beings can also be kind and brave, sacrificing themselves in a heroic way. Human beings can also choose to suicide… we are complex beings indeed.

Artwork © Naufragia. By Yuliana Guédez Forgiarini. «Presente Mente» means «Present Mind».

What does it mean to be human?

Who are we in this world? A community of different, microscopically small living beings, organized into a body –a being– who observes a bigger community of living beings, called planet Earth.

Maybe we are just a paradox that accepts the multiple probabilities of its destiny. Can we even speak of destiny in such a random world?

If quantic physics tells us that there is not an existing reality if there is not an observer, maybe it is our role to be that observer. If a tree in a forest falls down but no one hears it nor sees it, did it really fall down?… ‘No’ seems to be the answer.

Artwork © Naufragia. By Yuliana Guédez Forgiarini. «Futuro» means «Future».

Maybe we are the universe observing itself from the inside… like a bacteria that observes us from the insides of our body, living within us. Without us, the tree does not fall, and the universe does not exist. As long as a small form of life exists observing the universe, then the universe will exist. What selfishness! How arrogant of us it is to pretend that reality does not exist beyond ourselves! However, here we are, observing each other.

And for you, who are we in this world? It would be interesting to read your thoughts in the comments below.

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just for getting on board!

yuliana guédez forgiarini

I’m interested on international and individual concepts related to human beings. Naufragia is my open diary with an emphasis on photography, design and art, as well as humanist investigation. I search and dive deep in every project until I reach its soul. I’m open for commissions and good conversations. Want to join my adventures?

The Aperture: Learn from the hard times. Adversity can be a great teacher.


Image on Public Domain by Wikimedia Commons. Painting “Ships in a storm on a rocky coast” by Jan Porcellis.

With tons of enthusiasm I am pleased to announce to my estimated reader, that if he/she is reading this, it is because by working hard things can be achieved. Yes, we can learn from the hard times. This is, literally, a letter I’m writing to the future. If you are reading it it’s because the website has finally been opened, and even if we had to row against the odds in the hardest of situations, we can always go forward and achieve success. Being humble but also proud, I hope that you, my avid public, can estimate this open diary that is named Naufragia as a piece of my soul that I deliver to the world. I invite you to join me on this crusade. I’ll try to be as open and honest as I can with you, my beloved readers.

Now then, before celebrating, I must tell you a slice of my life –of my emotions– and let it go into the air.

Today hasn’t been an easy day.

I woke up with a lot of enthusiasm, earlier than I’m used to, but later than I would like to; excited because the big day had come: I would finally open Naufragia, a project in which I’ve been working on since two months already, from it’s conceptualization to its design. It would have been impossible to make without the marvelous Isabel Olmos (a beloved friend who developed the website with her firm, Sensmedia) and Gabriela Rodríguez (my model, supporter and great friend for life). This is likewise, of course, thanks to my family and my significant other, who have supported me strongly along the way.

However, it seems that the aperture wouldn’t get done today, 7/7/2017. Why? You see… I hadn’t planned to talk, not even a little, about the situation in my country, Venezuela. I believe that people have had enough of it, and for those who don’t know what the situation is in here, there are many websites that speak about this. This blog is about my work, my art, my creative journey and discoveries; it is not a place to complain about things, this is something that I could do with my private social media.

Even so, what occurred in my region was impossible to ignore: a big failure of the Internet service, that affected the whole Los Andes region in my country, would stop me from opening the website as planned. It seems that some thieves stole the main cables from CANTV (a company owned by the government that provides to most people the Internet service), and who knows when will the fixing get done. I will publish this article using alternate ways, so that the date in which it was published gets registered.

It is very unpleasing when something made with devotion and hard work (not only mine, but also done by my fellow partners in crime, Gabriela and Isabel) is delayed by external factors. However, my ranting stops here. This is not the way I want my blog to be, this is not what it’s supposed to be: I’ve learned as a life lesson, that if one is not flexible enough, one cannot reach nothing. “One must be as flexible as bamboo”, is what some say.


And thus, this is how I announce through this media that, against wind and sea, I will keep rowing on the sea of life. The adversity must be taken only as an advantage of exploiting new opportunities, to look from the other side. “When it’s not for you, then it isn’t”. I went through my day in a different way, searching for materials in my garden for my upcoming photo-shoot tomorrow day (which I hope you enjoy!).

Art, creativity and passion must be understood and used in the context of liberty… this liberty, which is an ambiguous concept, must be defined and captured by ourselves. Nobody can give it to us, and nobody can take it away from us; which is why if something cannot be done, you must do something else; but never stop making and creating. You never stop living with passion for what you do, and if you happen to forget where your passion is, you must make an effort to recover and find it.

Be it that we live in a world as Parmenides thought (conceiving the universe without the existence of movement), or as Heraclitus imagined (conceiving the universe as an eternal becoming), the important thing is to remain faithful towards ourselves. This is my clear conviction in any situation, be it crisis or not.

I say farewell, wishing my best for everyone in this piece of earth. Without knowing, by the moment that I’m writing these words, when will my plans be done; but with the certainty that I will work hard towards their consolidation.

I wish you the best, and a lot of strength, my “náufragos” (sea-wanderers)!

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yuliana guédez forgiarini

I’m interested on concepts related to human beings. Naufragia is my open diary with an emphasis on photography, design and art, as well as humanist investigation. I search and dive deep in every project until I reach its soul. I’m open for commissions and good conversations. Want to join my adventures?

Brooke Shaden: Surreal and Inspiring Photography.

Fine Art, Inspiring and Surreal Portraits by Brooke Shaden

 Photography © Brooke Shaden. Recovered from

Brooke Shaden and her artwork.

It is thanks to Brooke’s artwork that many of us have taken interest in photography as a method to illustrate concepts. She is definitely one of the most cherished authors of Fine Art Photography.

How does she earn such recognition? Well, I believe it’s enough just to take a look at her portfolio. With her square-format works, and usually using a feminine model (who many times is herself) as the main focal point, Brooke develops concepts through storytelling in just one picture.

 Photography © Brooke Shaden.

Brooke Shaden’s Creative Process.

Her creative process starts with conceptual inspiration. Then, she does the photo-shoot, after that she goes towards post-processing and editing in Photoshop and finally obtains a single image through compositing multiple pictures in one scene. It is interesting that she does her photo-shoots in such a short amount of time, taking around 15 minutes to get everything done. However, she specially works hard on editing the pictures. Having a clear idea from the beginning is her strongest asset, as she knows how to take photos in-situ and then how to edit them to make her concept shine through. All of her editing process includes compositing, adding textures and retouching colors to create her artistic world.

Other things Brooke Shaden does.

Besides being a Fine Art Photographer, Brooke Shaden is also a writer who loves to motivate people to follow their passion. She was born in the United States, and she is without a doubt an inspiration towards people who are searching their own voices with art and photography. Not every day you find a photographer who is so open with her creative process and her interest on teaching others as she is, as you can find many tutorials on her websites and social media.

Brooke Shaden has participated in the youtube channel “Framed Show: The Concept” with the Fashion Photographer Lindsay Adler. This is a good resource to those who are interested in Fashion Photography and Fine Art Photography, as both photographers show their creative processes and have to photograph and create within the given theme in a short amount of time. You can definitely learn interesting tips from both of them.


 Photography © Brooke Shaden.

Doing it with passion.

Without a doubt, the still young Brooke Shaden has earned her place in the art galleries by believing in herself and pursuing her dreams, and also by doing things on her own terms. Although she studied Filmmaking and English, she was capable of jumping out towards photography when she realized her concepts and style suited it better. However, she does recognize the importance of Story-Telling on her photographs, which is why she uses what she learned on both of her degrees.

Life spins around and one does not know where the next artist or photographer that steals our hearts is going to come from… And you? what are you waiting for to give it your all with passion?

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yuliana guédez forgiarini

I’m interested on international and individual concepts related to human beings. Naufragia is my open diary with an emphasis on photography, design and art, as well as humanist investigation. I search and dive deep in every project until I reach its soul. I’m open for commissions and good conversations. Want to join my adventures?

Toulouse-Lautrec Biography: The life of an eccentric man

 Photography on Public Domain by Wikimedia Commons.

Toulouse-Lautrec Biography: First years.

As an artist or designer, it is indeed very important to know the basics of the life of Toulouse-Lautrec. The Toulouse-Lautrec Biography, relates the life of a great artist with irreverent and unique lines. He was born in southern France, in 1864, during a period named as the “Second French Empire”. Around this time and in the following years, France had an economical boom under the ruling of Napoleon III. However, later on France passes on to the Third Republic, with big changes in the country’s political administration, turning France into a democracy. It is important to remember that during this time, France represented a great power on a worldwide level. France also conquered many African countries and imposed colonialism.

With the Californian gold-fever and the country’s economical growth, things were looking good for France, and most of all they looked great for a boy like Toulouse-Lautrec, who was born into a wealthy family. However, Toulouse wasn’t the classical wealthy boy. On the contrary, he had been born with dwarfism and he never fit well into the aristocratic way of life that his family offered. The Toulouse-Lautrec Biography speaks of a person with a complex, full of physical problems, but with a great passion towards art. Toulouse-Lautrec had both of his legs fractured when he was little, and when he grew up he was only 4,26 feet tall.

 Photography on Public Domain by Wikimedia Commons.

It is said that Lautrec’s manners were so inappropriate, that he even blew-in strongly the mucus in his nose when in public. As for his dwarfism’s origin, it is probable that it happened because his parents were cousins: it was an arranged marriage; but although if they were cousins, they couldn’t have been more different on their personalities. Lautrec’s mother was pure, quiet and religious, while his father was very eccentric, liked going out for hunting, and it could be said that he also enjoyed being a travesty from time to time.

Lautrec’s genetic “accident” shadowed him all his life. Even though he enjoyed life on the countryside, he soon came aware of his fragility and incompetence, something that caused his father to reject him harshly. During Lautrec’s childhood, his parents tried to pay him the most varied procedures to heal his condition: electricity, cold water under pressure, hot water baths, stretching methods… some of these procedures were nice, but others were extremely painful. Maybe this childhood full of problems would cause Lautrec to develop a particular interest on ugliness, because he felt part of it.

 Photography on Public Domain by Wikimedia Commons.

Toulouse-Lautrec Biography: Adult Life.

 When growing up, Lautrec decided to go to Paris. His family wanted him to learn the art of shapes in the most academic way possible, Bonnard-style, however; this wasn’t what Lautrec wanted, and thus he decided to learn the art on the streets, inside pubs, concentrating on “The New Poster Art”. He was a very particular character: after getting drunk, he went to his atelier in the mornings. Then, after work, he attained to have dinner with his mother in the aristocratic Paris, just like a perfect son.

Lautrec’s affairs with nightlife In Paris, associated with people with bad reputation, prostitutes and “low-life”, were starting to affect the family name reputation; thus his father ordered him to start signing his art with a nickname. The nickname used was LOST, being a reference to him losing his name: “Toulouse” (pronounced as To Lose).

Despite the efforts made, Alphonse, the father; decides to sell his son’s heritage so that he won’t inherit anything. After this, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec takes distance from his family in 1884. It is in this moment when Toulouse gets even more acquainted with nightlife, becoming friends with Bruant, to whom he made various posters. Later on, Toulouse decides to move into a brothel; as he was obsessed with prostitutes, who were part of his social life.

 Photography on Public Domain by Wikimedia Commons.

Toulouse-Lautrec Biography: His art and his fall.

If there is something in particular to reminisce from Toulouse’s artwork, it is that he did not draw people’s legs. For example, when looking at his mother’s portrait, we always see her half upper-body, hiding the lower part. However, when it’s about prostitutes, he portrayed them in the most dynamic way: with big, jumpy legs as the main asset. It is inevitable to think that Lautrec had a certain problem with this, since he had fractured both his legs and suffered from dwarfism. Despite being an aristocrat, it was in the darkness of the lowlife where he felt home. He liked being with his people; he didn’t have to pretend to be someone else, as he used to do in the high society of France and Paris.

Toulouse’s favorite was the absinthe, which was green-colored and highly alcoholic drink that stimulated thinking. Lautrec had an aversion for parrots, and when drinking the absinthe he felt he choked them in some way. His favorite place to be at was, of course, the Moulin Rouge, where he enjoyed the Can-Can dancers.

Living this crazy life, Lautrec’s mother, the pure and religious, could only walk away from him. In 1899 she returns to southern France, leaving Paris. This was something Lautrec didn’t like at all, and he became an alcoholic… this would mean the beginning of his fall, alongside a terrible Syphilis. These two factors turned him into a paranoid; he lost his friends, his job and his relationship with his family. Even his uncle, who had taught him to draw and paint when Lautrec was only a kid, was so disgusted that he burnt down some of Lautrec’s artwork.

During the artist’s last years, Lautrec entered into a sanatorium; the place in which he made one of his best works, which were, by the way, made from memory. Nevertheless, when he got out of the sanatorium he started drinking again, worsening his state of health. In the end, he died alongside his parents, months before his 37th birthday.

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yuliana guédez forgiarini

I’m interested on concepts related to human beings. Naufragia is my open diary with an emphasis on photography, design and art, as well as humanist investigation. I search and dive deep in every project until I reach its soul. I’m open for commissions and good conversations. Want to join my adventures?

Inspiring The Picture of Dorian Gray quotes that every creative person should know

The Picture of Dorian Gray Quotes

 Photography © Naufragia (2017).
By Yuliana Guédez Forgiarini. 

Here you will find my selection of The Picture of Dorian Gray quotes. Are you a fan of the Picture of Dorian Gray? Or perhaps you’re someone who has heard how good of a book it is, but never actually read it? – If it’s like that, do not worry; I’m keeping this post pretty “spoiler-free”. Nevertheless, I hope to awaken your love for this book, be it for the first time or the second time around, with the Dorian Gray quotes I’ll show you ahead. I’m sure they’ll serve as inspiration, for which I consider them very useful for any artist, photographer or designer.

You can also download my selection of The Picture of Dorian Gray quotes, but I recommend you to read the blog version, because I also comment what was inspiring or philosophically interesting for me while I read the book. 

The phrases are arranged in order of appearance. It is important to clarify that what I say about them is my opinion, and thus you should not take my comments as “The Only Truth”.

Surely you’ve already heard of its argument, but if it’s not that way, I’ll summarize it for you: The Picture of Dorian Gray, written by Oscar Wilde, is a novel from the XIX century that relates the story of a young man (Dorian Gray) who does not grow old; all this because of a portrait that Basil, a painter who admired Dorian’s beauty deeply, made of him. This portrait, with time, grew old and changed features while Dorian looked as splendid as always.

Strange as it may be, the great “Dorian Gray quotes” do not often come from Basil nor Dorian, but from the paradoxical Lord Henry; a great friend of Basil’s who also becomes friends with Dorian Gray, influencing deeply in his way of looking at life. If you haven’t read the book, I hope to convince you to do so by showing you these quotes. Here we go!

 Photography © Naufragia (2017).
By Yuliana Guédez Forgiarini. 

The picture of Dorian Gray Quotes.

“Beauty, real beauty, ends where an intellectual expression begins.”

-Lord Henry.

The first of The Picture of Dorian Gray quotes that I want to talk about, reminds us of Kant’s conception about beauty on his essay “Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime”. The philosopher expresses, referring to the feminine sex:

Deep meditation and a long-sustained reflection are noble but difficult, and do not well befit a person in whom unconstrained charms should show nothing else than a beautiful nature. Laborious learning or painful pondering, even if a woman should greatly succeed in it, destroy the merits that are proper to her sex, […]; but at the same time they will weaken the charms with which she exercises her great power over the other sex. A woman […] might as well even have a beard; for perhaps that would express more obviously the mien of profundity for which she strives.”

(From “Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime” by Kant, translated by John T. Goldthwait).

On this essay, Kant clarifies that the feminine sex is beautiful by nature, while the masculine goes towards the sublime. It is curious that on The Picture of Dorian Gray, it is actually a man who is beautiful; yet there is a “Kantian” conception in Lord Henry’s comments; in which he expresses that intellectual expression (a sublime characteristic), makes the subject less beautiful.

Intellect is in itself an exaggeration, and destroys the harmony of any face.”

– Lord Henry

This quote along with the one mentioned before, reveal us a lot of Oscar Wilde’s personality. It is important to remember that, even if The Picture of Dorian Gray is written in a very nice and easy-paced way, this book was also an aesthetical document by the time it was published. It was a revolution against the ideas of the time, where society wasn’t as open and liberal in many subjects. Basil’s constant admiration towards Dorian Gray gave enough reasons to society to judge Oscar Wilde based on his homosexuality, which made him suffer

“You know how I love secrecy. It is the only thing that can make modern life wonderful or mysterious to us.”


Basil, the painter, is a character that I believe has not many great quotes to remember; but he is also the character I feel the most identified with. However, he does have a few memorable and outstanding quotes. I believe that in the contemporary society, being so bombed with information, secrecy should be valued above all things. 

‘Being natural is simply a pose, and the most irritating pose I know,’

– Lord Henry.

Lord Henry and his paradoxical quotes… he always makes us think. Do we even know what being natural is? What does it mean to be us?

“An artist should create beautiful things, but should put nothing of his own life into them. We live in an age when men treat art as if it were meant to be a form of autobiography.”


This is an interesting approach towards the artist and his work. Why does the work of art always have to be self-biographical? And yet… in History, we have seen that only the best works of art are self-biographical.

“There is no such thing as a good influence. […] All influence is immoral. To influence a person is to give him one’s own soul. He does not think his natural thoughts, or burn with his natural passions. His virtues are not real to him. His sins, if there are such things as sins, are borrowed. He becomes an echo of some one else’s music, an actor of a part that has not been written for him.”

– Lord Henry.

I consider this fragment as one of the most important to comprehend Henry, because later in the book we will see how much of an influence (or not?) he will be towards Dorian. 

“People are afraid of themselves, nowadays. They have forgotten the highest of all duties, the duty that one owes to one’s self”

– Lord Henry.

This is also one of the phrases I like to keep from the book. Have you ever forgotten to please yourself in order to please others?

“But the bravest man among us is afraid of himself”

– Lord Henry.

Bravery, on certain occasions, can scare our enemies… but it can also, inevitably, scare ourselves.

“Beauty is a form of Genius, —is higher, indeed, than Genius, as it needs no explanation.”

Lord Henry

Throughout the book, Henry always puts beauty above genius, or rather, beauty as the highest form of genius. –Beauty is superior than sublime–, if we give it a Kantian interpretation. It is curious, simple things are the most beautiful of all, they do not require explanation and are perfect. 

“Punctuality is the thief of time”

– Lord Henry

This one is a good phrase to say to your friends when you’re late in a meeting.

“Nowadays people know the price of everything, and the value of nothing.”

-Lord Henry

This is one of those phrases that still work perfectly for nowadays, more than ever. Do you know the value of the things and the people that you care about?


 Photography © Naufragia (2017).
By Yuliana Guédez Forgiarini. 

“Beauty being the poisonous secret of life.”

– Lord Henry

Be careful with Henry… you could end up losing yourself in superficiality. And yet, some truth he does say. Beautiful things fascinate us.

“It is only the sacred things that are worth touching”.

– Lord Henry.

Contrary to any Buddhist ideology, Henry’s philosophy of life is based on achieving your own wishes and deepest desires.

“It is personalities, not principles, that move the age.”

– Lord Henry.

Haven’t you ever fallen in love with someone’s personality, even if his/her principles aren’t so noble? When we meet someone, we’re more interested in speaking with that person just for having the pleasure to admire his/her personality; this becomes more important than getting to know what they stand for: their principles; which we barely get to know on rare occasions. 

“When we are happy we are always good, but when we are good we are not always happy.”

– Lord Henry.

Searching for happiness before being good? Well… if happiness makes us good… oh! Dangerous selfishness.

“To be good is to be in harmony with ones self. Discord is to be forced to be in harmony with others.” 

– Lord Henry.

I’m one of those people who think that there must be balance between both: yourself and others. However, if you must pick, being in harmony with ones self is what will allow you to be, later on, in harmony with others.

“I love acting. It is so much more real than life.”

– Lord Henry.

This is a much more truthful phrase than it seems to be. In life, people act to coexist in society… but acting, especially with great actors, is about showing true and deep emotions; getting their souls (and sometimes bodies) naked in order to convey a scene masterfully.

“There is always something ridiculous about the passions of people whom one has ceased to love.”

– Narrator

This is a cruel but truthful phrase. If you’ve ever broken up with a significant other, or someone has ever broken up with you, you know that this The Picture of Dorian Gray quote is speaking the truth. This also applies to friendships.

“But the picture? What was he to say of that? It held the secret of his life, and told his story. It had taught him to love his own beauty. Would it teach him to loathe his own soul?”

– Narrator

As a portrait artist I cannot help but to feel intrigued. I always aspire to portray my models psychologically … I wonder, are there any portraits made with such a skill that cause a deep introspection in their model? Do these portraits infiltrate into their conscience? Can a powerful sign transform the object that created it?

“We live in an age that reads too much to be wise, and that thinks too much to be beautiful.”

Lord Henry

Hmm… and yet this phrase is written on a book. The Picture of Dorian Gray quotes never cease to surprise us with ironies.


“There is something fatal about a portrait. It has a life of its own.”

Dorian Gray.

Oh Dorian… even if your portrait was an analogy and a hyperbole at the same time, I don’t think you were wrong. On this Dorian Gray quote, we see a portrait is a separated thing from its creator and the model; the portrait is some kind of a fusion between both, along with the Space and Time in which it was made. These ‘parents’ will later on admire or hate the beauty of their son, and if this son is approved, he will be presented to society proudly.

“He knew that the senses, no less than the soul, have their mysteries to reveal.”

– Narrator

Nowadays we tend to give less importance to our senses… we fully believe in the Reality they present to us, but we don’t take a while to think about the magnificence they have by themselves very often. They are, without a doubt, very impressive; even if they give us limited perceptions of the world around us.


“Nothing can cure the soul but the senses, just as nothing can cure the senses but the soul.”

– Lord Henry

These Dorian Gray quotes show us the true face of the main character; searching for expiation for his sins in what Henry had told him before. However, I believe that maybe exploiting our senses with harmony, we can truly develop our soul. 

The great value that The Picture of Dorian Gray quotes have is that they are applicable to our lives, they make us rethink about life; leading us towards introspection. In general, every phrase that I have listed in here have caused that effect on me, or at least deepened my curiosity.

Maybe some of The Picture of Dorian Gray quotes can be catalogued today as sexist, but in my opinion, more than sexist, it’s a showcase of gender roles. I am thankful for how society is now on that, as I tend to prefer intellect over the beauty “inherent” to my feminine sex… However, as an artist I always look for beauty in my works. Moreover, it is very interesting to take a look at the past and see how things used to be not so long ago.

Until the next trip!

“What of Art?
-It is a malady.
-An Illusion.
-The fashionable substitute for Belief.
-You are a skeptic.
-Never! Skepticism is the beginning of Faith.
-What are you?
-To define is to limit.”

– Gladys and Henry.

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yuliana guédez forgiarini

I’m interested on international and individual concepts related to human beings. Naufragia is my open diary with an emphasis on photography, design and art, as well as humanist investigation. I search and dive deep in every project until I reach its soul. I’m open for commissions and good conversations. Want to join my adventures?