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Aubrey Vincent Beardsley (Brighton, August 21, 1872 – Menton, March 16, 1898) was a British painter and illustrator. One of the most notable critics of the Victorian society, satirical and implacable, his work aroused admiration and scandal.
Portrait of Beardsley by Frederick Hollyer, 1893.
Aubrey Beardsley was born in Brighton. In 1883 his family settled in London, and the following year he became known to the public as “child prodigy”, giving several concerts with his sister. He studied at the grammar school of Bristol in 1884, and in 1888 he obtained a position in the office of an architect. Then he worked for the insurance company Guardian Life and Fire.
In 1891, on the advice of the famous Pre-Raphaelite painter Sir Edward Burne-Jones and Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, he devoted himself to art professionally. In 1892 he attended classes at the Westminster School of Art, with Professor Fred Brown.
In his short life, Beardsley earned a reputation as one of the most innovative English illustrators.
Produced extensive illustrations for books and magazines, such as the deluxe edition of Sir Thomas Malory’s work Le Morte d’Arthur, which is considered his first assignment of importance (1893); in this work, Burne-Jones influences are appreciated.
He was editor of The Yellow Book (1894-1895). He was an art editor for the first four editions and produced many illustrations for the magazine. He also worked for magazines such as The Savoy (1896, edited by Leonard Smithers) and The Studio. He illustrated Salome (of his friend Oscar Wilde) in 1893 for his French representation; It was performed in English the following year. Its typical Japanese and classic look now appears, with a very stylized stroke and large black and white surfaces.
In his last works the drawing gets complicated, feeling the influence of the Rococo; this can be seen in Pope’s The Rape of the Lock (1895).
He also wrote Under the Hill, an unfinished erotic tale based loosely on the Tannhäuser legend, as well as short stories and poetry. He was able to publish it in The Savoy.
Beardsley was a public figure, as well as an eccentric private belonging to Oscar Wilde’s circle of friends. He said: “I only have one goal – the grotesque. If I’m not grotesque, I’m nothing. ” Wilde said of him that he had “a face like a silver ax, and grass green hair”.
Beardsley was active until he died of tuberculosis in Menton (France) with 25 years of age. He had converted to Catholicism in the year 1895.
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