There was little that fin-de-siècle artist Aubrey Beardsley's famous gold-nibbed pen could not illustrate--drawings, posters, bookbindings. Though he died of tuberculosis at the age of 25, he left an enormous body of work behind that found a willing audience during his lifetime in the more outré circles of the "naughty '90s" and now symbolizes the decadence of the 1890s. Beardsley possessed an astonishing range of expression, but he is perhaps most famous for his outrageous erotic drawings--many of which adorned such artistic magazines as the Savoy
and the Yellow Book
. He pushed public opinion to the limit with his sequence of graphic illustrations for Aristophanes's Lysistrata
, which, deemed obscene, remained unpublished until 1966.
Biographer Stephen Calloway curated the centenary exhibition of Beardsley's work at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London during autumn of 1998. He closely scrutinizes Beardsley's life in the light of his subversive drawings in this in-depth, superbly illustrated biography that coincides with the exhibition.
...a judicious and handsome critical study... -- The New York Times Book Review, Sarah Harrison Smith
Mr. Calloway quotes one Chris Snodgrass--"Beardsley's stylized irony recuperates the dislocations it reveals, serving to reinforce the anesthetizing effects of his harmonizing aesthetic techniques, adding another veneer of 'style' to distance and mitigate the dissonant metaphysical implications his works expose." Mr. Calloway then promises not to undertake a similar approach--to the great relief of any sensible reader--and keeps his word with contemporary sources for the facts of Beardsley's career and a minimum of speculation on possible reasons for the artist's addiction to the sexually ambiguous and the subtly subversive. A precocious success at twenty, dead of tuberculosis at twenty-five, Beardsley was, quite simply, like nobody else in his control of line and his use of black and white space, as the book's illustrations prove. One can only wish there were more of them. -- The Atlantic Monthly, Phoebe-Lou Adams