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Aubrey Beardsley - British Artist From Art History

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Historical Artist - Aubrey Beardsley (1872 - 1898)

Aubrey Beardsley was born in Brighton, and endured tuberculosis as a child in 1879. At 16, he moved to London to study art. His first commission came from J.M. Dent in 1893, who asked him to illustrate Malory’s Morte d’Arthur. This project resulted in more commissions, the most famous of these being his pen and ink illustrations of Oscar Wilde’s Salome. In 1895, Beardsley’s tuberculosis resurfaced and ultimately caused his death in 1898. He was aligned with the Yellow Book coterie of artists and writers. He was an art editor for the first four editions and produced many illustrations for the magazine. He was also closely aligned with Aestheticism, the British counterpart of Decadence and Symbolism.

Most of his images are done in ink, and feature large dark areas contrasted with large blank ones, and areas of fine detail contrasted with areas with none at all. Aubrey Beardsley was the most controversial artist of the Art Nouveau era, renowned for his dark and perverse images and the grotesque erotica, which were the main themes of his later work. Some of his drawings, inspired by Japanese shunga, featured enormous genitalia. His most famous erotic illustrations were on themes of history and mythology, including his illustrations for Aristophanes' Lysistrata and Wilde's Salomé.

Beardsley was also a caricaturist and did some political cartoons, mirroring Wilde's irreverent wit in art. Beardsley's work reflected the decadence of his era and his influence was enormous, clearly visible in the work of the French Symbolists, the Poster art Movement of the 1890s and the work of many later-period Art Nouveau artists like Pape and Clarke.

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