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.


Chapter 3: Japan and Art Nouveau?

So far in this course Art Nouveau has been my favorite chapter. It branches into poster design, experimental typography, curvilinear forms, and an overall style that feels more contemporary; thus relatable.

Although I enjoyed all the work in Chapter 3,  I could not help myself from being critical of the lack of depth the chapter contained when it comes to Japanese works and artists themselves. For most if not all of the countries mentioned in Chapter 3 there primary influence for graphic design and illustration was Japan. European countries and the United States were influenced by Ukiyo-e wood block prints, and the style of work used by these artists and designers was referred to as ‘Japonisme’.

One would argue that Japanese graphic design and illustration are one some of the primary influences for Art Nouveau and possibly modern day graphic design and illustration. With this being said, chapter 3 began with France opposed to Japan and it failed to give Japan the proper attention to detail it deserved. The chapter consistently referred to Japan as an influence and I would go as far to say it gave a sense of foundation and consistency for Art Nouveau. Chapter 3 included three images of works from Japan and only one was a clear and visible print. Not only does this limit readers from learning about Art Nouveau in its totality, it also restricts this time period from a Western perspective which could be counter productive.

In the first sentence of paragraph three I state that Japanese design and illustration in the 1850’s influences the fields to this day, I would like to expand on that topic. For a lot of artists today one of the influences hat got them into their practice is drawing cartoons. Anime  (Japanese cartoons) and Manga (Japanese comics) influenced numerous artists to get into the field even though a good number of them branch away from Anime and Manga.


The above work is a piece by Beardlsey (French artist) that uses curvilinear forms, pattern and overlap with a focus on strong 2D contours and lines. When I saw Beardsley work I immediately thought of xxxHolic, a manga produced in 2003 (pictured below).



There are numerous parallels between Clamp’s xxxHolic and Beardsley’s work: the patterns, repetition, backgrounds, curvilinear forms and more. I highlight these two for two reasons. For one, I want to acknowledge the ways in which Ukiyo-e still impacts modern day illustration and graphic design. Secondly, with the information given in chapter 3 I can easily compare Beardsley to the work of Clamp. However, with only one visible Ukiyo-e print in chapter 3 it is difficult for me to find a comparable image with Clamp’s xxxHolic (Japanese art) to a 1850 Japanese work of art. Chapter 3 was very enjoyable but it fell short on providing proper context, information, and detail when it came to Japan during the Art Nouveau period. If given a more in depth analysis and walk through of Japan; the chapter would have grounded readers on the  foundation of Art Nouveau and the ways in which it impacts contemporary art.