1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Beardsley, Aubrey Vincent

BEARDSLEY, AUBREY VINCENT (1872–1898), English artist in black and white, was born at Brighton on the 24th of August 1872. In 1883 his family settled in London, and in the following year he appeared in public as an “infant musical phenomenon,” playing at several concerts with his sister. In 1888 he obtained a post in an architect’s office, and afterwards one in the Guardian Life and Fire Insurance Company (1889). In 1891, under the advice of Sir Edward Burne-Jones and Puvis de Chavannes, he took up art as a profession. In 1892 he attended the classes at the Westminster School of Art, then under Professor Brown; and from 1893 until his death, at Mentone, on the 16th of March 1898, his work came continually before the public, arousing a storm of criticism and much hostile feeling. Beardsley had an unswerving tendency towards the fantastic of the gloomier and “unwholesome” sort. His treatment of most subjects was revolutionary; he deliberately ignored proportion and perspective, and the “freedom from convention” which he displayed caused his work to be judged with harshness. In certain phases of technique he especially excelled; and his earlier methods of dealing with the single line in conjunction with masses of black are in their way unsurpassed, except in the art of Japan, the country which probably gave his ideas some assistance. He was always an ornamentist, rather than an illustrator; and his work must be judged from that point of view. His frontispiece to Volpone is held by some to be, from this purely technical standpoint, one of the best pen-drawings of the age. His posters for the Avenue theatre and for Mr Fisher Unwin were among the first of the modern cult of that art.

The following are the chief works which are illustrated with drawings by Beardsley: the Bon Mot Library, The Pall Mall Budget, and The Studio (1893), Sir Thomas Malory’s Morte d’Arthur (1893–1894), Salomé (1894), The Yellow Book (1894–1895), The Savoy Magazine (1896), The Rape of the Lock (1896).

See also J. Pennell, The Studio (1893); Symons, Aubrey Beardsley (1898); R. Ross, Volpone (1898); H. C. Marillier, The Early Work of Aubrey Beardsley (1899); Smithers, Reproductions of Drawings by Aubrey Beardsley; John Lane, The Later Works of Aubrey Beardsley (1901); R. Ross, Aubrey Beardsley (1908).  (E. F. S.)