Tuesday 5 March 2013

Aubrey Beardsley – part 1

Aubrey Beardsley (1872 – 1898) was born in 1872 in Brighton, England. Beardsley’s health was always fragile - he had his first reported attack of tuberculosis at the age of nine - the disease which was to reduce him to an invalid several times and finally cause his death. When in 1884 his mother became too ill to care for him and his sister, they were both packed off to live with an aunt nearby. He attended Bristol Grammar School for four years as a boarder, indulging in his talents by drawing caricatures of his teachers. In 1889, he was sent to London as a clerk in an insurance office. His recovered mother soon followed and remained to nurse her son for the rest of his short life.

Beardsley's first published work was "The Valiant," a poem in the JUne 1885 issue of Past and Present, the Brighton Grammar School magazine. Two years later his first reproduced drawings, a series of sketches, "The Jubilee Cricket Analysis," appeared in the same journal.

1887 The Jubilee Cricket Analysis

He also provided the program book illustrations for "The Pay of the Pied Piper," his School's 1888 Christmas entertainment. 

1888 The Pay of the Pied Piper

1888 The Pay of the Pied Piper

The years 1893-94 were perhaps the most important in Beardsley's career. He was hard at work producing illustrations and covers for books and periodicals, including his first commission, J. M. Dent's edition of Malory's Le Morte d’Arthur. This massive work, issued first in 12 parts and later in volume form, contained over 300 different illustrations, chapter headings, and vignettes. Also in 1893 the artist formed an alliance with the person who was to catapult him to fame and prove his downfall - Oscar Wilde.

From childhood Beardsley's life expectancy was short and uncertain. At the age of seven he contracted tuberculosis, a disease then known as "consumption" because sufferers appeared to waste away. Beardsley's fragile health meant that he was somewhat frail as a boy and often found himself confined to his bed, unable to attend school or play with his peers. The impact of this disease on the artist's childhood was no doubt on his mind when as an adult he created "Self-portrait in Bed" (1894). The ink drawing depicts a small child nearly swallowed up by the enormous bed that he occupies. An inscription in French at the top left reads: "By the gods not all monsters are in Africa." The quote is as much a reference to his lifelong struggle with tuberculosis as it is indicative of his fascination with the grotesque and macabre.

Beardsley worked briefly as a clerk for an insurance agency after grammar school, all the while developing a portfolio of Pre-Raphaelite-inspired drawings. In 1891, at age 19, Beardsley accompanied his sister to the studio of painter and illustrator Sir Edward Burne-Jones. Although the siblings were initially denied admittance, Burne-Jones's interest was piqued when he noticed Mabel's striking red hair. Beardsley soon built up the courage to show the artist his portfolio. Deeply impressed by the youth's obvious talent and imagination, Burne-Jones recommended Beardsley to the Westminster School of Art. There, Beardsley received instruction from painter Frederick Brown. A consumptive relapse shortly thereafter meant that from then on Beardsley lived on a knife's edge, relishing in a lust for life even as he faced the prospect of an early death.

Sir Edward Burne-Jones was not the only one to notice Beardsley. Within a year of enrolling in art school, the young artist received an offer from publisher Joseph Dent to illustrate Sir Thomas Malory's epic, Le Morte D'Arthur (1893). Impressed by the artist's ability, Dent also observed that Beardsley was "a strange boy" and probably "not long for this world." Despite his apparent frailty, Beardsley produced over 300 illustrations within a short time frame. The resulting work blends the classical poses and complex compositions found in Pre-Raphaelite art and the decorative patterning, flat two-dimensionality, and erotica of Japanese Ukiyo-ye prints with a Decadent fixation on death and decay.

This is part 1of a 7-part post on the works of Aubrey Beardsley:

1891 (  attributed to ) The Litany of Mary Magdalen 
graphite on paper 22.7 x 16.9 cm

1891 Hail Mary first published in The Studio 1898

1892 Vignette Design for "Bon Mots" 
ink and graphite 10 x 8.2 cm

1892 Aubrey Beardsley Self-Portrait 
pen and wash 25 x 9.5 cm

Beardsley went to night classes at the Westminster School of Art under Professor Brown for three months in the summer of 1892. For Fred Brown, one of the founder-members of the New English Art Club. The style of the drawing shows the influence of Whistler, whose Peacock Room is imitated in the decoration of the wall. Beardsley acknowledged this influence by incorporating in the design a peacock feather and Whistler's ‘Butterfly’ signature.

1892 Professor Fred Brown 
graphite and ink on paper 25.4 x 25.4 cm

1892-96 From Juvenal's VI Satire & Lucian's True History:

Juvenal: Frontispiece

Juvenal: Dreams 
graphite, ink and white gouache 15.6 x 11.7 cm

Juvenal: A Snare of Vintage 
ink 19.8 x 14.4 cm

Juvenal: Bathyllus Taking the Pose

Juvenal: Bathyllus in the Swan Dance

Juvenal: Birth from the Calf of the Leg
Juvenal: Juvenal Scourging Woman

Juvenal: Lucian's Strange Creatures 
12.7 x 22.9 cm

Juvenal: Messalina Returning from the Bath

Juvenal: The Scarlet Pastorale 
graphite and ink 27.1 x 18.8 cm

Juvenal: Messalina and her Companion 
graphite, ink wash and watercolour 27.9 x 17.8 cm

Juvenal: A Snare of Vintage

c1892 Katharina Klafsky as Isolde 
pen and ink and wash

1892-98 ( attributed to ) Decorative Study - Satyr 
pen and ink 12.4 x 8.7 cm

1892-98 ( attributed to ) Decorative Study - Two Angels 
pen and ink, brush and wash 14.3 x 9.6 cm

1892-98 Crouching Midget 
pen and ink 9.7 x 6.7 cm

1892-98 Madame Réjane 
pen and brush and ink 22.4 x 14 cm

1892-98 Man with Skull 
pen and ink 8.6 x 7.6 cm

1892-98 ( attributed to ) Decorative Study - Woman with Sunflowers 
pen and ink, brush and wash 12.8 x 8.5 cm

1892-98 Portrait of Whistler in Spanish 17th Century Costume 
pen and ink

1893 After Sandro Botticelli ( Alessandro Filipepi ) 
graphite on paper 35.5 x 20 cm

1893 Cover for "Pastor Sang by Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson"

1893 Evalina 
Front Cover

1893 Evalina 
Title Page

1893 Evalina and her Guardian

1893 Frontispiece for "Virgilius the Sorcerer 
pen and brush and ink 23.3 x 14.3 cm

1893 Grotesque in Bon-Mots of Foote and Hook

1893 Grotesque in Bon-Mots of Foote and Hook

1893 Grotesque in Bon-Mots of Foote and Hook

1893 Grotesque in Bon-Mots of Foote and Hook

1893 Pierrot and Cat, from St. Paul's

1893 Incipit Vita Nova 
pen and ink and wash 20.3 x 19.7 cm

1893 From Salome:

Salome: Design for the cover of Salome

Salome: Cover of Salome

Salome: Title Page 
graphite and ink 22.6 x 17.2 cm

Salome: The Woman in the Moon 
graphite and ink 23 x 16.5 cm

Salome: The Peacock Skirt 
graphite and ink 23 x 16.8 cm

Salome: The Black Cape 
15.9 x 22.4 cm

Salome: A Platonic Lament

Salome: Enter Herodias 
ink 23.2 x 17 cm

Salome: The Eyes of Herod 
graphite and ink 22.9 x 16.9 cm

Salome: The Stomach Dance 
graphite and ink 22.6 x 16.6 cm

Salome: The Toilet of Salome 
pen and ink 22.7 x 16.2 cm

Salome: The Toilet of Salome

Salome: Border Design 
graphite and ink 24 x 19.7 cm

Salome: The Dancer's Reward 
graphite and ink 23 x 16.5 cm

Salome: John and Salome 
graphite and ink 23.3 x 16.4 cm

Salome: The Climax

Salome: The Climax 
ink and green wash

Salome: Salome on Settle 
graphite and ink 23 x 16.4 cm

Salome: The Burial of Salome tailpiece
graphite and ink 16.4 x 17.4 cm

1893 Servant Carrying Slippers on a Tray 
ink on paper

1893 The Kiss of Judas 
ink 22 x 31.4 cm

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