Beardsley, Aubrey. (1872 - 1898).
L i f e
- died of TBC when not yet 26 years old
W o r k
I l l u s t r a t i o n s :
- the most controversial visual artist of the ‘Art Nouveau’ era (1890s – beginning of the 20th century)
- 'Art Nouveau' = French for ‘New Art’, a self-consciously radical and mannered prelude to Modernism; characteristic for its dynamic, undulating, and flowing curves, hyperbolas, and parabolas
- his drawings present not mere illustrations x but: form an integral part of the British Aesthetic Movement => best understood in this context
- style: typically black-and-white drawings in ink, contrasts large dark areas x large blank ones, areas of fine detail x areas with none at all
- themes: dark and perverse images, the grotesque erotica
=> preoccupied with the grotesque both in life and art
- an art editor of The Yellow Book (1894 – 97, the quintessential avant-garde literary quarterly of the 1890s) x but: fired after a year due to a suspicion of homosexuality because of his friendship with Oscar Wilde
- an illustrator of The Savoy, the rival periodical edited by Arthur Symons
- a caricaturist: political cartoons mirroring O. Wilde’s irreverent wit in art
- author of extensive illustrations for books (including Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur) and magazines (including The Studio)
- most famous for his sensuous illustrations on themes of history and mythology: e.g. his illustrations for O. Wilde’s Salome
- also illustrated: Alexander Pope’s The Rape of the Lock, Ben Jonson’s Volpone, and others
=> his work reflects the decadence of his era
> influenced the French Symbolists
> influenced the later-period Art Nouveau artists, including Alfons Mucha
P o e t r y :
“The Ballad of a Barber” (1896):
- a poem, published originally in The Savoy
- concerned with a demon barber
F i c t i o n :
The Story of Venus and Tannhauser (1907):
- an unfinished erotic novel, published originally as Under the Hill in The Yellow Book
- based loosely on the medieval German legend of Tannhäuser
- Tannhäuser: a knight and poet, finds the home of the goddess Venus and spends here a year to worship her; after leaving, he asks the Pope to be absolved of his sins x but: the pope claims it as impossible as it would be for his papal staff to blossom; the staff does so in 3 days x but: Tannhäuser has already returned to Venus never to be seen again
(Photo: Frederick Evans. 1895. Source: Wikimedia Commons).
AuthorAubrey Vincent Beardsley. (1872 - 1898). British.
WorkIllustrator. Poet. Novelist. Author of illustrations for O. Wilde's Salome (1893).
GenresDecadence and Aestheticism in 1890s. Grotesque. Eroticism.
Abrams, Meyer Howard, ed. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. New York: W. W. Norton, 1993.
Barnard, Robert. Stručné dějiny anglické literatury. Praha: Brána, 1997.
Baugh, Albert C. ed. A Literary History of England. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1967.
Coote, Stephen. The Penguin Short History of English Literature. London: Penguin, 1993.
Sampson, George. The Concise Cambridge History of English Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1946.
Sanders, Andrew. The Short Oxford History of English Literature. New York: Clarendon Press, 1994.
"In the present age, alas! our pens are ravished by unlettered authors and unmannered critics, that make a havoc rather than a building, a wilderness rather than a garden. But, alack! what boots it to drop tears upon the preterit?"
From The Story of Venus and Tannhäuser (1907).