Aubrey Beardsley: Wikis


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Aubrey Beardsley
Portrait of Beardsley by Frederick Hollyer, 1896
Birth name Aubrey Vincent Beardsley
Born 21 August 1872(1872-08-21)
Brighton, England
Died 16 March 1898 (aged 25)
Menton, France
Nationality English
Field Illustration
Training Westminster School of Art
Movement Art Nouveau, Aestheticism

Aubrey Vincent Beardsley (21 August 1872 – 16 March 1898) was an English illustrator and author. His drawings are characterized by an erotic nature, and his most erotic illustrations are those found in the Lysistrata; Beardsley drew these for a privately printed edition.

Beardsley later converted to Catholicism, and would subsequently beg his publisher, Leonard Smithers, to “destroy all copies of Lysistrata and bad all that is holy all obscene drawings." Smithers ignored Beardsley’s wishes, and actually continued to sell reproductions as well as forgeries of Beardsley's work.[1]

Beardsley was active till his death in Menton, France, at the age of 25 on 16 March 1898 of tuberculosis.[2] He had been received into the Roman Catholic church in March of the previous year.



Beardsley was born in Brighton on 21 August 1872. His father, Vincent Paul Beardsley (1839–1909), was the son of a tradesman; Vincent had no trade himself, however, and instead relied on a private income from an inheritance that he received from his maternal grandfather when he was twenty-one.[3] Vincent's wife, Ellen Agnus Pitt (1846–1932), was the daughter of Surgeon-Major William Pitt of the Indian Army. The Pitts were a well-established and respected family in Brighton, and it is widely accepted that Beardsley's mother married beneath her station. Shortly after their wedding, Vincent was obliged to sell some of his property in order to settle a claim for "breach of promise" from another woman who claimed that he had undertaken to marry her.[4] At the time of his birth, Beardsley's family, which included his sister Mabel who was one year older, were living in Ellen's familial home at 12 Buckingham Road.[5]

In 1883 his family settled in London, and in the following year he appeared in public as an "infant musical phenomenon," playing at several concerts with his sister. He attended Brighton, Hove and Sussex Grammar School in 1884, before moving on to attend Bristol Grammar School, where in 1885 he wrote a play, which he performed together with other students. At about the same time his first drawings and cartoons were published in the school newspaper of the Bristol Grammar School Past and Present. In 1888 he obtained a post in an architect's office, and afterwards one in the Guardian Life and Fire Insurance Company. In 1891, under the advice of Sir Edward Burne-Jones and Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, he took up art as a profession. In 1892 he attended the classes at the Westminster School of Art, then under Professor Fred Brown.


The Stomach Dance, 1894

His six years of major creative output can be divided into several periods, identified by the form of his signature. In the early period his work is mostly unsigned. During 1891 and 1892 he progressed to using his initials - A.V.B. In mid-1892, the period of Morte D'Arthur and The Bon Mots he used a Japanese-influenced mark which became progressively more graceful, sometimes accompanied by A.B. in block capitals.[1] He was aligned with the Yellow Book coterie of artists and writers. He was an art editor for the first four editions and produced many illustrations for the magazine. He was also closely aligned with Aestheticism, the British counterpart of Decadence and Symbolism. Most of his images are done in ink, and feature large dark areas contrasted with large blank ones, and areas of fine detail contrasted with areas with none at all.

Beardsley was the most controversial artist of the Art Nouveau era, renowned for his dark and perverse images and the grotesque erotica, which were the main themes of his later work. Some of his drawings, inspired by Japanese shunga, featured enormous genitalia. His most famous erotic illustrations were on themes of history and mythology, including his illustrations for Aristophanes' Lysistrata and Wilde's Salomé.

The Peacock Skirt, 1894

He illustrated Oscar Wilde's play Salomé - the play eventually premiered in Paris in 1896. He also produced extensive illustrations for books and magazines (e.g. for a deluxe edition of Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur) and worked for magazines such as The Studio and The Savoy, of which is he a co-founder. Beardsley also wrote Under the Hill, an unfinished erotic tale based loosely on the legend of Tannhäuser, published in The Savoy. Beardsley was a caricaturist and did some political cartoons, mirroring Wilde's irreverent wit in art. Beardsley's work reflected the decadence of his era and his influence was enormous, clearly visible in the work of the French Symbolists, the Poster art Movement of the 1890s and the work of many later-period Art Nouveau artists like Pape and Clarke.

Beardsley was a public character as well as a private eccentric. He said, "I have one aim—the grotesque. If I am not grotesque I am nothing." Wilde said he had "a face like a silver hatchet, and grass green hair." Beardsley was meticulous about his attire: dove-grey suits, hats, ties; yellow gloves. He would appear at his publisher's in a morning coat and patent leather pumps.

Der Puderquast, 1893

Although Beardsley was aligned with the homosexual clique that included Oscar Wilde and other English aesthetes, the details of his sexuality remain in question. He was generally regarded as asexual—which is hardly surprising, considering his chronic illness and his devotion to his work. Speculation about his sexuality include rumors of an incestuous relationship with his elder sister, Mabel, who may have become pregnant by her brother and miscarried. Through his entire career, Beardsley had recurrent attacks of the disease that would end it. He suffered frequent lung hemorrhages and was often unable to work or leave his home.

Media Portrayals

In the BBC 1982 Playhouse drama Aubrey, written by John Selwyn Gilbert, Beardsley was portrayed by actor John Dicks. The drama followed Beardsley's life from the time of Oscar Wilde’s arrest in April 1895, which resulted in Beardsley losing his position at the Yellow Book, to his death from tuberculosis in 1898.[6]

See also


  1. ^ a b Bruce S. Harris, ed (1967). The Collected Drawings of Aubrey Beardsley. Crown Publishers, Inc.. 
  2. ^ Aubrey Beardsley: A biography by Matthew Sturgis: (Harper Collins, 1998) ISBN 0-00-255789-4
  3. ^ Sturgis, p. 8
  4. ^ Sturgis, p. 10
  5. ^ Sturgis, p. 3
  6. ^ [1] Aubrey by John Selwyn Gilbert


  • Benkovitz, Miriam J. 1980. Aubrey Beardsley, an Account of his Life. New York, N.Y.: Putnam. ISBN 039912408X.
  • Brophy, Brigid. 1969. Black and White; a Portrait of Aubrey Beardsley. New York, N.Y.: Stein and Day.
  • Calloway, Stephen. 1998. Aubrey Beardsley. New York, N.Y.: Harry N. Abrams. ISBN 0810940094.
  • Fletcher, Ian. 1987. Aubrey Beardsley. Boston, M.A.: Twayne Publishers. ISBN 0805769587.
  • Ross, Robert 1909. Aubrey Beardsley. London: John Lane.
  • Snodgrass, Chris. 1995. Aubrey Beardsley: Dandy of the Grotesque. New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195090624.
  • Symons, Arthur. 1898. Aubrey Beardsley. London: At the Sign of the Unicorn.
  • Sturgis, Matthew. 1998. Aubrey Beardsley: a Biography. Woodstock, N.Y.: Overlook Press. ISBN 087951910X.
  • Weintraub, Stanley. 1967. Beardsley: a Biography. New York, N.Y.: Braziller.
  • This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.

External links

Simple English

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Aubrey Beardsley

Aubrey Beardsley (August 21, 1872March 16, 1898) was a English illustrator.[1] He is best known for his drawings for Oscar Wilde's Salome.[2] Beardsley is one of the famous people who appears on the cover of The Beatles, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album.

Early life

Beardsley was born in Brighton where his mother taught him to be interested in books and music.[1] He was very good at music and drawing by the age of ten, but he was already sick with tuberculosis. After leaving school he worked as a clerk for an insurance company in London. He had to stop working at the end of 1889 because of his illness.[1] He tried writing, but in 1891 he started to work full time as an artist.


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