Aubrey Beardsley

Aubrey Vincent Beardsley, born on August 21, 1872, was one of England’s most influential illustrators. His career began flourishing in the years 1893-1894. During this time, he was producing a vast number of illustrations and commissions for books and periodicals. Despite this, he was still a “23-year-old unknown” (Eskilson, 77) when he and his art were featured in the first issue of a new art journal called The Studio. It was in that publication, along with The Savoy, that Beardsley included several illustrations depicting Oscar Wilde’s Salome, and it was specifically those illustrations that earned him widespread notoriety.

His Salome illustrations (clearly influence by  Japanese wood block prints, that showed off his distinctive “hairline” drawing style and elongated figures (Eskilson, 79)), brought along much criticism due to the “obvious sensuality of the women in his drawings, which usually contained an element of morbid eroticism” (Encyclopedia Britannica Online).

His art, and his association with Oscar Wilde, made him an important figure of the Aesthetic movement. This movement was created to reject Victorian culture, and to make “art for art’s sake”. Just like the many artists and authors of this movement, Beardsley’s work centered around “images of sexuality, subjective emotional responses, and supernatural mysteries” (Eskilson, 79).

Beardsley’s distinctive black and white drawings were criticisms of the rigid Victorian society during that time, as his illustrations were considered indecent and grotesque. His drawings “blurred gender lines and mock male superiority. They also play on Victorian anxieties about sexual expression and men’s fear of female superiority” (The Art of Aubrey Beardsley).

However, his career was cut short in 1897 when his health began to deteriorate. Traveling to the south of France in hopes of healing, Beardsley died of tuberculosis at the age of 25, on March 16, 1898 (The Life of Aubrey Beardsley).


“Aubrey Beardsley.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 29 Sept. 2016.

By the 1890’s Women Began to Take Control over Their Own Lives. “The Art of Aubrey Beardsley.” The Art of Aubrey Beardsley. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Sept. 2016.

Eskilson, Stephen. “Art Nouveau: A New Style For A New Culture.” Graphic Design: A New History. New Haven: Yale UP, 2007. N. pag. Print.

“The Life of Aubrey Beardsley.” The Life of Aubrey Beardsley. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Sept. 2016.


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