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Aubrey Beardsley Biography

Aubrey Beardsley or Aubrey Vincent Beardsley was born on 21st of August, 1872 and was a well-known English illustrator and author.

Who was Aubrey Beardsley?

The Japanese woodcut’s style had a great influence on Beardsley, hence; he drew with black ink that emphasized the decadent and the erotic greatly.

Aubrey Beardsley Biography
Aubrey Beardsley

In the Aesthetic movement, Beardsley was known to be a renowned personality along with James A. McNeill Whistler and Oscar Wilde.

Early Life of Aubrey Beardsley

Aubrey Beardsley was born in Brighton, England to his father, Vincent Paul Beardsley who was the son of a tradesman. But, Aubrey himself had no trade so he had to rely on private income that he received from his grandfather (maternal) as he was 21 years old.

Aubrey Beardsley

Beardsley was married to Ellen Agnus Pitt, daughter of Surgeon-Major William Pitt of the Indian army. His wife’s family was a well-known and reputed family in Brighton.

At the time of his birth, Beardsley’s family resided in Ellen’s familial home when Vincent had to sell a part of his property for settling a claim from another woman who claimed that he promised to marry her.

Aubrey Beardsley Biography

The family later moved to London in 1883 and a year later he was seen in public playing in various concerts with his sister, Mabel, and was known as the “infant musical phenomenon”.

He began attending Brighton, Hove and Sussex Grammar School in 1885 and spent his next four years there.

The beginning of his interesting pieces of work started gradually with his first poems, cartoons, and drawings being printed in the school magazine in “Past and Present”.

Aubrey Beardsley Art

He started working from 1888 when he obtained a post in an architect’s office followed by another in the Guardian Life and Fire Insurance Company.

Aubrey Beardsley

He was advised by Sir Edward Burne-Jones and Pierre Puvis De Chavannes to take up art as a profession that he followed and attended classes at Westminster School of Art in 1892, under Professor Fred Brown.

Aubrey Beardsley’s Career as an artist

Aubrey Beardsley traveled to Paris where he took inspiration from the Parisian Japanese prints; their art style had a great influence on the famous Aubrey Beardsley artwork.

His first commission was Le Morte d’Arthur by Thomas Malory and illustrated it for the publishing house J. M. Dent and Company.

Aubrey Beardsley

Beardsley’s work can be divided into a number of periods that can be identified by the style of his signature. In the early period, his work was generally unsigned until 1891 when he started using his initials, A. V. B.

The following year was the period of Le Morte d’Arthur and his interest in the Japanese- mark which was used by him gracefully and was often used with A. B. which was more progressive.

Aubrey Beardsley Book

He also served as an Art Editor and produced designs for a magazine “The Yellow Book” which he co-founded with Henry Harland, an American writer. His drawings were mainly in black ink that featured beautiful contrasts of black and white.

Aubrey Beardsley Artwork- The Burial of Salome
Aubrey Beardsley Artwork- The Burial of Salome

Beardsley was known as the most controversial artist of his time- The Art Nouveau era, because of his dark and grotesque erotic images that were mainly the themes of his work as his inspiration from the Japanese shunga artwork led to the featuring of enormous genitalia in his later works.

Aubrey Beardsley Salome

History and mythology were among the other themes that also featured his famous erotic illustrations.

The printed edition of Aristophanes’s Lysistrata, Oscar Wilde’s play- Salome that got premiered in Paris (1896) and in an edition of The Rape of the Lock by Alexander Pope are where Aubrey Beardsley’s artworks are found.

A Book of Fifty Drawings by Aubrey Beardsley (1897) that brought his work more popularity, eventually is a collection of his artworks.

Private Life and Death

“I have one aim- The Grotesque”. If I am not grotesque I am nothing”, as said by Beardsley himself, he believed in it publicly as well as in his private life.

Beardsley’s association with homosexuality that included other English aesthetes suggested him to be homosexual, although his sexuality is still not really clear yet.

Aubrey Beardsley Drawings

During his entire career, he suffered from lung hemorrhages due to frequent attacks of tuberculosis that affected his work too. Beardsley’s work kept growing and spreading with the help of his close friends who refused to destroy the drawings as suggested by Beardsley.

Aubrey Beardsley

With the deterioration of his health, Beardsley died in the French Riveria on 16th March 1898 of tuberculosis. He had a short life of 25 years but Aubrey Beardsley art style and the magnificent works lived forever.

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