Happy birthday Aubrey Beardsley!


Aubrey Beardsley (August 21, 1872—March 16, 1898) was an English illustrator, author, and musician. His style reflected Japanese woodcuts, but the subject matter was often erotic and/or grotesque. He worked closely with Oscar Wilde and James A. McNeill Whistler.


Beardsley was born in Brighton, England. His mother was the daughter of a Surgeon-General in the Indian Army, and her family was well-respected. His father lived off of an inheritance. In 1883, his family moved to London. His mother exposed Beardsley and his sister to music at an early age, and by one year after moving to London, he was considered a child prodigy.

By the time he was seven years old, he had caught the tuberculosis that would eventually kill him.


He attended Brighton Grammar School, where his first drawings were published in Brighton Grammar School Past and Present, the school's newspaper. After leaving the school in 1888, he took a job at the Guardian Life and Fire Insurance Company. Before long, he had to leave the job because of health problems. But eventually, after his health improved, he showed his drawings to Edward Burne-Jones, who is alleged to have said, "I seldom or never advise anyone to take up art as a profession, but in your case I can do nothing else."


One of his first major drawings was Le Débris d'un poète.

In 1892, he traveled to Paris and discovered artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec as well as the Parisian affinity for Japanese art prints. Both became huge influences on his work. In 1894, Beardsley made 17 drawings for Oscar Wilde's play Salome (London and New York, 1894).


Not long after, he was appointed art editor of the Yellow Book, which aimed to publish little-known artists. In 1895, Beardsley was arrested because of the provocative and sexual nature of his work. After temporarily fleeing to France, he returned to London to help establish a new magazine, The Savoy. Among work from the likes of George Bernard Shaw, W. B. Yeats, Max Beerbohm and Havelock Ellis was the first part of Beardsley's erotic novel Under the Hill.

In the last few years of his life, Beardsley's work began to reflect the French Rococo engravers' style.

Beardsley converted to Roman Catholicism not long before his death.


Additional Info

  • Birthday Date: Thursday, 21 August 2014
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