Audrey Beardley

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




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.