Aubrey Beardsley  British- 1872-1898

Aubrey Beardsley, illustrator, painter & designer. Born in Brighton in 1872. The artist’s health was always fragile: at the age of nine, he had his first reported attack of tuberculosis, the disease which was to reduce him to an invalid several times and finally cause his death. He attended Bristol Grammar School for four years as a boarder and in 1889, he was sent to London as a clerk in an insurance office.

Beardsley first published work was “The Valiant,” a poem in the June 1885 85 issue of Past and Present. Burne-Jones recommended that the young artist attend night classes at the Westminister School of Art which was the only formal training he ever received.

The years 1893-94 were perhaps the most important in Beardsley’s career, he was producing illustrations and covers for books and periodicals, including his first commission, J. M. Dent’s edition of Malory’s Morte Darthur (Beardsley had been introduced to the publisher in the summer of 1892). This massive work, issued first in 12 parts and later in volume form, contained over 300 different illustrations, chapter headings, and vignettes. Also in 1893 the artist formed an alliance with Oscar Wilde. Beardsley was commissioned 50 guineas to Illustrate the English edition of ‘Salome’ (1894).Beardsley illustrated various magazines & articles. These included ‘The Yellow Book’ and the  The Savoy; in which  “Under the Hill”  and “The Ballad of a Barber” both appeared. When publication ceased in December 1896, Beardsley continued to illustrate other authors’ works for Smithers. Among these volumes were editions of Pope’s The Rape of the Lock, Ben Jonson’s Volpone, and The Lysistrata of Aristophanes). Smithers also issued Beardsley’s own A Book of Fifty Drawings, the first collected album of his work.

In the hope that the climate might improve his deteriorated condition Beardsley followed doctor’s advice and traveled to the south of France. Realizing his short time left to live, he converted to Catholicism. He died in 1898 he died at the age of 25.

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