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The Art Story Homepage Artists Aubrey Beardsley
Aubrey Beardsley Photo

Aubrey Beardsley

British Illustrator and Author

Movements and Styles: Art Nouveau, Aesthetic Art, Decadent Movement

Born: August 21, 1872 - Brighton, Sussex, England

Died: March 16, 1898 - Menton, France

"People hate to see their darting vices depicted [but] vice is terrible and it should be depicted."

Aubrey Beardsley Signature

Summary

Aubrey Beardsley's artistic career was remarkably impactful for its brevity. In the seven years he was able to draw and write before succumbing to tuberculosis, Beardsley developed a reputation as one of the most controversial artists of his time. The linear elegance of his designs coupled with the artist's bizarre sense of humor and fascination with the grotesque and taboo simultaneously intrigued and repelled his Victorian audience. His illustrations comprised characteristics of Aestheticism, Decadence, Symbolism, and, most apparently, Art Nouveau. Beardsley's block prints allowed his work to be easily reproduced and widely circulated. The diabolic beauty of his work and its overwhelming presence in English publishing houses meant that Beardsley quickly became the most influential draftsman of his time.

Key Ideas

More than mere illustrations, Beardsley's images captured the mood of the accompanying text, while aggressively critiquing repressive Victorian concepts of sexuality, beauty, gender roles, and consumerism.
Beardsley's poster art and essay, "The Art of the Hoarding" (1894) changed how the public thought about art and advertising. The two, according to the artist, were not mutually exclusive. His theatre posters manifested his theory and helped revolutionize poster production in Europe and America.
Beardsley borrowed aspects from various artistic movements and adapted them to suit his own purposes. He appropriated the Decadent themes of decay, death, and eroticism to shock viewers out of their complacency; while his delicately interlacing forms and sinuous arabesque lines make his work important in marking the visual shift from the Aesthetic movement to the modern Art Nouveau style.
In addition to his illustrations, Beardsley also composed poems and prose. His later writings were as Decadent as his pictures. Beardsley is best known for Under the Hill, an unfinished erotic novel about Venus and Tannhauser, for which he created the text as well as the accompanying illustrations.
Aubrey Beardsley Photo

Aubrey Vincent Beardsley was an artistic and musical prodigy from an early age. Born to a father who preferred to squander his inheritance rather than adopt a trade, Beardsley's creative prowess helped stave off complete destitution. At age 12 he and his older sister Mabel (who would later become an actress) performed musical duets in a public concert. A witty child with a wicked sense of humor, Beardsley drew caricatures of his grammar school teachers and by age 14 had published his first poem, "The Valiant," as well as a series of sketches titled "The Jubilee Cricket Analysis" in the school's magazine, Past and Present.

Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Aubrey Beardsley
Interactive chart with Aubrey Beardsley's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
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Show influences

Artists

William MorrisWilliam Morris
Henri de Toulouse-LautrecHenri de Toulouse-Lautrec

Personal Contacts

Oscar WildeOscar Wilde
James WhistlerJames Whistler

Movements

Classical ArtClassical Art
JaponismJaponism
Aesthetic ArtAesthetic Art
The Pre-RaphaelitesThe Pre-Raphaelites
Art NouveauArt Nouveau
Influences on Artist
Influences on Artist
Aubrey Beardsley
Aubrey Beardsley
Years Worked: 1891 - 1898
Influenced by Artist
Influenced by Artist

Artists

Wassily KandinskyWassily Kandinsky
Pablo PicassoPablo Picasso
Charles Rennie MackintoshCharles Rennie Mackintosh

Personal Contacts

Oscar WildeOscar Wilde

Movements

Art NouveauArt Nouveau
SymbolismSymbolism

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Cite this page

Content compiled and written by Jen Farren

Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Sandy McCain

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Jen Farren
Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Sandy McCain
Available from:
First published on 21 Jan 2016. Updated and modified regularly. Information
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