Aubrey Beardsley

Salome, with the head of John the Baptist

“If I am not grotesque, than I am nothing” — Beardsley

Today is the birthday of the great Art Nouveau illustrator Aubrey Beardsley (1872-1898). A key member of the Aesthetic movement, he was a friend and colleague of Oscar Wilde, for whom he illustrated a published version of the play Salome that came out in 1894. Beardsley’s brief career moved with the speed of a comet. He’d become a professional in 1891, made the trip to Paris where he was influenced by Toulouse-Lautrec and Japanese prints in 1892, and was dead of tuberculosis in 1898. In between, an incredible body of highly original, highly distinctive illustrations. Even an amateur like me can recognize his style at a glance (even or unless it is the work of one of his countless imitators). Almost all done in black ink, they are full of feminine grace and simplicity, often incorporate abstraction, tend to forego three dimensional illusion, are relatively devoid of shading…and sometimes are quite obscene. On that note, we leave you with one of his illustrations for a volume of the plays of Aristophanes. I promise this will be the only fart cartoon you will ever see on Travalanche:


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