Aubrey Beardsley was not only an influential illustrator but a poet. With time, it was said that his writing became just as decadent as his illustrated work. As a child, he was diagnosed with tuberculosis and he spent much of his time in bed. His time bedridden caused him to devote his life to drawing and writing poetry.
During the Art Nouveau movement, Aubrey Beardsley has been known to be one of the most controversial artists of his time. His illustration had a linear elegance that somehow worked well with his bizarre sense of humor. A fascination with the grotesque and taboo simultaneously intrigued and repelled his audience. His works were also seen to have had very strong elements of Japanese aesthetics as well as some influence from Pre-Raphaelites.
One of Aubrey’s works is called “How Sir Tristram Drank of the Love Drink.” This piece was created in the years between 1893 to 1894, and was one of Aubrey’s illustrations that was known to be his first masterpiece. This illustration was produced for Thomas Malory’s Le Morte D’arthur. His imagery helped the author’s interpretation with the tale of King Arthur. The illustration draws from the story of Tristram and Isolde’s doomed love story that represents the romantic connection between Lancelot and Guinevere in the story of King Arthur. He portrays the couple as androgynous characters that are being forced apart by a pillar that divides the composition.
Aubrey’s works have the characteristics from not just the influence of Art Nouveau, but also comprised characteristics of the Aestheticism, Decadence, Symbolism movement. The one most common thing found in Aubrey’s illustrations was the androgynous figures that challenged the Victorian gender roles and traditional concepts of sexuality. Most of his themes consisted of decay, death, and eroticism that was a shock to his audience. Even with such dark themes, he still managed to keep a delicacy of interlacing forms and sinuous arabesque lines that made his visualization show the changing of time, gender role changes that came from war, and art movement influenced.
Aubrey Beardsley Biography, Art, and Analysis of Works … (n.d.). Retrieved October 23, 2016, from http://www.theartstory.org/artist-beardsley-aubrey.htm