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The Art of Aubrey Beardsley

September 28, 2018, 0 comments, on Lab Nilaya

To look upon the work of Aubrey Beardsley is to be lost in a dream world of infinitesimal, meticulous, spellbinding detail and tarot card eeriness and splendour. It is a world of two colours and two dimensions: vast inked expanses of black and fine hair lines of black playing against naked, unforgiving white. It is a world of theatre, strange inhabitants costumed in outlandish get-ups where ordinary life has no place.

His art is prolific and his influence on graphic and poster artists and art philosophy incomparable. And this is all the more remarkable because Aubrey Vincent Beardsley did not live past his 25thbirthday, dying of tuberculosis in 1898. Yet even today his illustrations and poster design at the Victoria and Albert museum draws crowds riveted by his unique artwork.

 

Could commercial design co-exist with art? Henri Toulouse Lautrec working as a commercial artist in Paris thought so and his posters pasted hurriedly all over the streets of Paris turned them into an outdoor art gallery. In England, Beardsley thought the same. At the forefront of the Aesthetic movement which as its name suggests celebrated art for art’s sake, Beardsley also married the flowing, organic forms of Art Nouveau with a strong political voice. His work shocked and seduced at the same time with their disturbing figures and subject matter and unarguable beauty. Beardsley loved Japanese woodcuts with their simplicity and aching elegance which found reflection in his own work.

 

Commissioned by writers such as Oscar Wilde, his illustrations were aggressive though spectacular satires against the Victorian era’s attitudes towards gender, the celebration of artificial beauty and excessive consumerism – subjects that are relevant even today.

The opulence of his style and other-worldliness is best captured in his own words for he was as powerful a writer as artist: “The place where he stood waved drowsily with strange flowers, heavy with perfume, dripping with odours.... Huge moths, so richly winged they must have banqueted upon tapestries and royal stuffs, slept on the pillars that flanked either side of the gateway, and the eyes of all the moths remained open and were burning and bursting with a mesh of veins."

We experience and re-experience the work of Aubrey Beardsley in the design we encounter today. His originality still stuns and thrills. Wander through his world and have your art eyes opened anew.

 

 

  

 

Henri Toulouse Lautrec- National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Felton Bequest, 1948. This digital record has been made available on NGV Collection Online through the generous support of the Joe White Bequest

Aubrey Beardsley- National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Gift of E.L. Armstrong, 1943. This digital record has been made available on NGV Collection Online through the generous support of the Joe White Bequest

 

 

 

Japanese woodcut- https://www.brooklynmuseum.org/exhibitions/utagawa

Aubrey Beardsley- National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Gift of E.L. Armstrong, 1943. This digital record has been made available on NGV Collection Online through the generous support of the Joe White Bequest

 

Cover - Aubrey Beardsley [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

By Malini Aikat.

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