If you hadn’t heard of Aubrey Beardsley before this point, one look around this tantalising exhibition will leave you wondering why on earth not. A master of exquisite detail, shocking imagery and deliberate distortions, his work caused quite the splash in the Victorian era.
Born in Brighton, Beardsley was fatally diagnosed with Tuberculosis aged 7. The knowledge that his life would be a brief one lead him to work at a rapid pace, creating well over a thousand illustrations in just 5 years. One contemporary detailed his incredible determination to ‘fill his few working years with the immediate echo of a great notoriety.’
He died at the age of just 25 but had already become one of the most celebrated artists in Europe – a testament to both his talent and the urgency of his ambition. Best known for his illustrations of Oscar Wilde’s Salome and Alexander Pope’s the Rape of the Lock, these works only scratch the surface of his accomplishments.
This thoughtful retrospective gives us an in-depth view of Beardsley, both the artist and the man, including his foray into Japanese-inspired drawings, less modest phallic imagery and his relationships with Wilde and others in the aesthetic movement.
We’d recommend visiting on a weekend as, if properly indulged in, the exhibition can take several hours to absorb. Keep your eyes peeled for the perverse; even in his most high-profile works, Beardsley managed to sneak in phallic doodles, often hidden within the intricacies of a teacup or a curtain.
His attention to detail in creating obscene imagery, warped expressions and intricate backdrops marks Beardsley’s work out from any other. He once said, ‘If I am not grotesque, I am nothing.’ This exhibition is as shocking as it is awe-inspiring. Grab a ticket while you still can.
The Aubrey Beardsley exhibition at the Tate Britain is £16 and free for members. It ends on the 20th September.
Are you keen to see this exhibition? Tell us why in the comments below. If you like our blog, you’ll love our Instagram.
Beardsley’s first recorded self-portrait circa age 19. He described himself as having ‘a vile constitution, a sallow face and sunken eyes.’
Image: Sortir a Paris