Aubrey drew women well

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[The “Burial of Salome” (above). I think that is the best drawing of a naked woman I know. Sociologists should note that the ideal beautiful woman could be slender over 100 years ago. The slender woman as the most attractive woman is not a modern invention.]

[More on this drawing: “The tailpiece beautifully epitomizes Beardsley’s illustrations for Wilde’s play: in addition to the emblem with which the artist signs his works, we have two grotesques, the satyr and the harlequin or clown, who lay to rest a beautiful nude woman inside a decorated powder box with an ornate-handled powder puff beside it, thereby touching upon the Decadent’s emphasize upon cosmetics that Max Beerbohm mocked in “A Defence of Cosmetics.” Putting the woman — Salome herself? — to bed (or in a coffin) also echoes Thackeray‘s mention of putting his characters away once Vanity Fair has ended. — George P. Landow]

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[(above) Portrait of Mrs Patrick Campbell, the actress. There is obviously exaggeration in the actress’ attenuated figure. Aubrey Beardsley’s own mother was famously slender. Perhaps he enjoyed drawing willowy women.]

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[(above) Venus dressing, from Under the Hill, an erotic novel by Aubrey Beardsley. I always assumed this was a procession, but I now see that it is Venus attended by her maids, in her boudoir.]

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[An illustration from The Rape of the Lock (above).]

Aubrey Beardsley, the artist, died young and probably a virgin, although there have been claims that he made his sister pregnant. He converted to Catholicism about a year before his death in 1898.

“Rose of Lima”, illustrating Beardsley’s interest in Catholicism (below):

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The following classic photograph has a Beardsley feeling to me, because of the tall elegant woman not doing very much, contrasted with the squat inelegant male figure:

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6 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by slumlord on September 1, 2014 at 2:36 pm

    Julian, good taste.

    Though, Beardsley’s drawings are a thinking man’s pornography and I have to admit that there’s a taste of the diabolical in his work. He converted on his death bed.

    The only other man who comes close to him in terms of depravity is Klimt.

    Reply

    • Yes, Klimt is comparable, but he is not so decadent. They are both beloved of ardent young men and the purveyors of wall posters to students.

      When I was at uni, I once had a lovely portrait of a young woman (clothed) based on a 19th C French poster, possibly by Mucha, but I have never been able to find a copy, even on the Internet. I think it was of a young, well-dressed woman looking at art prints.

      The source I have says that Beardsley converted to Catholicism about a year before he died.

      Yes, he has been called the Fra Angelico of Diabolism. Although I think that overstates the case a little.

      I thought about a post once on Klimt as the greatest artist of the female nipple, but thought better of it. Beardsley might be called the greatest delineator of the female breast, which is strange if he really did die a virgin.

      My sister had a book which argued that he got his sister pregnant, she miscarried and he obsessively drew the foetus in his later works. But some of the evidence for this appears to rely on a notorious liar.

      Reply

  2. “The slender woman as the most attractive woman is not a modern invention.”

    Oh but how we love to ignore this, cherry picking art history to show more “curvy” (read: fat) women that are still slender to today’s comparison.

    Reply

    • The only artist I know who painted truly plump women was Rubens. No doubt there were others.

      Beardsley’s mother had been a Miss Pitt. She was so slender that she was known, apparently with admiration, as “the bottomless Pitt”.

      Your comment inspired my latest post.

      Reply

  3. […] is by Georges de Feure. There is something slightly uneasy about his style (Cf. Aubrey Beardsley), and it is not surprising to find that some of his other work has a slightly decadent feeling. […]

    Reply

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