Artists’ Depictions of the Many Faces of Mr. Hyde
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde creates a literary space, where puzzled readers take on the challenge of assigning signifiers to the mysterious nature of Hyde and interpreting the distinctive rhetorical sublime he embodies. What I found so fascinating about Hyde’s appearance is that although we are all reading the same text, the artwork featuring Hyde and its characterization of the character is sometimes at odds with Robert Louis Stevenson’s characterization of him. Many artists choose to express and revel in the symbolic facets of the novel including but not limited to: embracing the role of the mirror, Hyde’s height, and the animalistic sense of freedom embedded in Jekyll’s transition to Hyde. There is an awareness of Hyde’s inhumanness as he “rebels against the dominion of the sign, the limits of the body” and a mystifying power embedded in the term “something” that Stevenson frequently uses in order to refer to Hyde’s essence (Law, 186). In a phenomenological study regarding the poetics of space, Gaston Blachelard affirmed, “the limits set up by the boundaries of a house (or of a body, for that matter) allow the spatial configuration of meaning, such boundaries for the figural as the frame for the constitution of the picture” (Clunas, 173). In this blog, I will be exploring the inimitably creative spaces various artist thrive in while painting Hyde, including technique, purpose, lighting, and reasoning behind why he/she portrayed Hyde in a particular fashion. Stevenson said it best: “[T]hus it was that there sprang up and grew apace in the lawyers’s mind a singularly strong, almost an inordinate, curiosity to behold the features of the real Mr. Hyde” (Stevenson, 1785).
(Williams, You Cannot Hyde Your Shadow)
Ella Williams’ piece, You Cannot Hyde Your Shadow, evokes the sense that Jekyll is truly not the one in control. When asked about her process of creating the image, Williams stated that despite the fact that Hyde was smaller in the book, she wanted to induce imagery that proved “his presence looms over Jekyll and seems unshakable” (Williams, Ella). I genuinely liked this drawing, because it clearly depicts the many metaphorical and emotional roles that Hyde has in relation to Jekyll through his body physically hovering over. The body language of Hyde including his curled fingers and the indentions in them came across to me in a very eerie sense, which I like, and believe further strengthened the facet of Hyde’s character that is quite haunting through the curves and swirls in his wardrobe (especially the coat-tail). The size of the Hyde’s hands is worth noting, because (to me) the hands are big just as the role they play in the story. The first sign of Jekyll losing his self-control and identity is found in the description of the hands: “the hand that lay on my knee was corded and hairy. I was once more Edward Hyde” (Stevenson, 1815). Williams’ technique included the use of a black pen and intentionally “made the lines that make up the Hyde-shadow more harsh and angular to show the harshness of his character.” Additionally, placement also plays an imperative role in this piece as the artist deliberately positioned Jekyll in the shadow “as he no longer feels that he is a good man, because of this darkness he harbors” (Williams, Ella).
(Morn, Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde)
The role of the artist’s self is incredibly valuable, and is best exemplified in Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray:
Is at once surface and symbol.
Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril.
Those who read the symbol do so at their peril.
It is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors” (Wilde).
Arain Morn’s painting of Hyde was deeply influenced by her own personal knowledge/beliefs and fears of the world. Here, Hyde is depicted with demon-like qualities as a tall man with sharp, large facial features and a coat collar that is somewhat cartoonish. In a personal interview, Morn informed me that her subconscious played a large role with her interpretation of how Hyde should look. Morn’s decision of Hyde’s brunette hair color was cheekily based on being told, as a child, that if a man had dark hair it meant they were more aggressive and had a larger amount of testosterone (Morn). Morn stated, “a ‘pure evil’ should have sinister sadistic scary smile with sharp teeth, because we, people, are afraid of predators, we feel danger. Morn intentionally gave the character wider shoulders and a more masculine appearance than Jekyll to show, “his primitive brutal essence of being able to get anything he want or to kill\rape anyone he want” (Morn). The challenges she faced during the period, in which she painted the piece, also influenced her perception of Jekyll due to reflective nature of the artwork and her negative experiences and with men and during the time: “this image was quite accurate image of how men used to look for me” (Morn). Morn utilized a cinematographic way of lighting for villains, since she found green lighting to be “unnatural and mystical” (Morn). The use of colors is quite striking in this piece, including the use of red at the top (which can signify aggression or evil) in a somewhat splotchy manner, and perhaps blood droplets which would tie in the story’s plot. I particularly liked the way Morn illustrated Hyde overpowering Jekyll through picturing him above, which underscores how “his cruel nature is much [more] powerful over morality and human values” (Morn).
(Mastroianni, Dr Jekyll’s Transformation)
Lorenzo Mastroianni’s piece, Dr. Jekyll’s Transformation is incredibly mystifying and asserts dreary elements, such as the lighting. The shading and use of analogous colors and earth tones of the black and gray all work in correspondence to symbolize the metaphorical darkness in the story. I particularly found this piece breathtaking due to the illustration of the two faces in a ghost-like fashion. The hands and fingernails in this piece embody an animal or monster-like quality. The sense of movement in this piece work well with Jekyll’s personal account of the feelings associated with being Hyde: “There was something strange in my sensations, something indescribably new” (Stevenson, 1810).
Hyde’s inhumanity is emphasized so greatly in this scene, which subsequently serves as a signifier that implies that Hyde is pure thingness (Law,504). The loss of identity and the power found in the high levels of chaos is shown through Hyde’s personal belongings being thrown in the air due to loss of control. The disorderly scene and mannerisms behind the “something” in Hyde’s essence is explained by Jules Law as: “a sign standing only for itself , that is for the signifier, the reduction or subjection of human potential to the algorithms of signification: automatic, irritable, self-identical” (Law, 509). The two faces express the extreme fascination Victorians had with the concept of duality.
Many other artists tend to depict Hyde through the use of a mirror. Duality along with the inhumanness of mindlessness is found through the use of the mirror due to its mechanical doubling, which shows one part of the two being completely restrained (Law, 505). Jules Law argues, “the literal mirror, I think we can safely say, is presented as evidence not so much of Jekyll’s fall from the human as of his humanity” (Law, 508).
(meme created by Allie Waddell)
(Neumann, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde)
Oswin Neumann’s piece spoke to me due to its lighting. Here, even the shadowing has a lighter quality than the other depictions of Hyde. When I saw this painting, the self-anger seen within the mirror of his facial expression really stood out to me, because it seemed so authentic. The lighting from above appears to be showing Dr. Jekyll’s self-illumination of the monster he becomes while he’s Hyde. The use of green typically represents mystery, science, and is used a lot in Romantic paintings. The green of the bottles and the tenting of Mr. Hyde’s skin further represents the joys and downfalls that follow self-experimentation. Furthermore, I liked how the artwork’s style had a romantic element. The use of color scheme and detail allow Neumann to catch viewers’ attention through the sense of Jekyll’s emptiness and wonderment. This piece standouts from others, because this version of Hyde is the same height of Jekyll and it doesn’t give off a sense of brooding or negativity. The strangeness or inhumanity of Hyde seems to be embraced by Jekyll in an enlightening way in this piece in contrast to a fearful one.
(meme created by Allie Waddell)
There is something enchanting about the depictions of the dual nature of Jekyll and Hyde due to the unique way the text resonates within each artist. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde provides the artist room for creativity to use literature to express interpersonal, everyday struggles of having to use a guise to hide one’s true authenticity. There truly is something very perplexing and beautiful about how this one text; this one “man” can have so many faces.
Clunas, Alex. “Comely External Utterance: Reading Space in ‘The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.’” The Journal of Narrative Technique, vol. 24, no. 3, 1994, pp. 173–189., www.jstor.org/stable/30225414.
LAW, JULES. “There’s Something about Hyde.” NOVEL: A Forum on Fiction, vol. 42, no. 3, 2009, pp. 504–510., www.jstor.org/stable/27764352.
Mastroianni, Lorenzoi. Dr Jekyll’s Transformation. Digital image. :iconlorenzomastroianni:. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Apr. 2017. <http://lorenzomastroianni.deviantart.com/art/Dr-Jekyll-s-transformation-246832165>.
Morn, Arain. Personal interview. 2 May 2017.
Morn, Arain. Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Digital image. :iconarainmorn:. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Apr. 2017. <http://arainmorn.deviantart.com/art/Strange-Case-of-Dr-Jekyll-and-Mr-Hyde-458923920>.
Neumann, Oswin. “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” Oswin Neumann. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 May 2017. <https://oswin.artstation.com/projects/ZDNVX>.
Oscar. “Oscar Wilde: The Picture of Dorian Gray.” The Picture of Dorian Gray. N.p.: n.p., n.d. N. pag. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde: – The Literature Page. Web. 27 Apr. 2017. <http://www.literaturepage.com/read/doriangray-1.html>.
Stevenson, R. L. “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”. The Longman Anthology of British Literature: 4th ed, vol. 2B, edited by David Damrosch and Kevin J. H. Dettmar et. al., Pearson Education, Inc. 2010, pp. 1780-1818.
Williams, Ella. Personal interview. 1 May 2017.
Williams, Ella. You Cannot Hyde Your Shadow… Digital image. :iconellawilliams:. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Apr. 2017. <http://ellawilliams.deviantart.com/art/You-cannot-Hyde-your-shadow-321097172>.
I love that you tied visual and literary art together in your blog post. Oswin Neumann’s piece is the depiction of Jekyll and Hyde that I am most familiar with; Mr. Hyde being a dark, tall, and handsome. The most interesting piece for me was Mastroianni’s. I’ve personally never seen Jekyll and Hyde depicted as ghost-like beings. Awesome job!
Oooh, this was so interesting to read, and I loved the last line, it summed up this post and Stevenson’s story wonderfully, it’s fantastic. I also really like the personal interview, that’s so cool that you were able to actually interview the artist! It is very interesting to see and read an artist’s perspective so deeply, I think it’s intriguing that all of these artworks are so different, yet are all based on the same work of literature. I’m trying to scroll back up and guess which one of the depictions I would immediately be able to identify as being based on Jekyll and Hyde; I think either the last one with the mirror or the one by Morn, although my personal favorite was the blurry one where has two faces, or honestly the first gif, which was an excellent choice for this post. Thank you for writing this, the visual elements are engaging and make for an enjoyable read!
This was such a creative blog post, I really enjoyed reading it! It is so interesting that, like you said, we all can be reading the same text, but our perceptions of the characters can be completely different. I think my favorite piece of art you chose to write about was Neumann’s. It shows a clear difference between the two characters and highlights the descriptive aspects of their personalities. Also, I think the use of the mirror also signifies Jekyll reflecting on his alter-ego, maybe questioning the ethics behind his experiment. Overall, very nicely done!
The way society has morphed Hyde’s character into having a more dominant appearance than Jekyll is an interesting change, one that almost seems to subvert the message of the story. Hyde’s smaller appearance is because of the neglect Jekyll gave to that part of himself, but when he is depicted as being bigger, that makes less sense. The menacing part of the story is that evil lives inside of everyone and can do bad things if left unacknowledged, but the larger depictions of him seem to be an appeal to the horror we feel at things outside of ourselves. But capturing the sense of fear is much more easily obtained by artists by depicting him as a large, ominous, shadowy figure. I think I like “You Cannot Hyde Your Shadow” the best, since the attachment to Jekyll is so clear.
I think your piece is interesting because everyone conjures up a different image of what “pure evil” looks like. All of the artwork shown displays the respective artist’s manifestation of evil. You make a good point, that often times Hyde is portrayed differently that he is in the book, and that the reason for this is because people like to imagine their own personal Hyde and what he would look like. The first painting with the shadow is especially intriguing because it implies that Hyde is inside Jekyll, and he is looming over him constantly. You do a great job at showing the correlation between Stevenson’s novella and modern portrayals of Jekyll and Hyde!