Campy art nouveau: AUBREY BEARDSLEY

Aubrey Vincent Beardsley (August 21, 1872 – March 16, 1898) was an influential English illustrator, and author, today best known for his erotic illustrations.

Beardsley was born in Brighton. In 1883 his family settled in London.

His six years of major creative output can be divided into several periods, identified by the form of his signature. In the early period his work is mostly unsigned. During 1891 and 1892 he progressed to using his initials – A.V.B. In mid-1892, the period of Morte D’Arthur and The Bon Mots he used a Japanese-influenced mark which became progressively more graceful, sometimes accompanied by A.B. in block capitals.

He was aligned with the Yellow Book coterie of artists and writers. He was an art editor for the first four editions and produced many illustrations for the magazine. He was also closely aligned with Aestheticism, the British counterpart of Decadence and Symbolism.

Most of his images are done in ink, and feature large dark areas contrasted with large blank ones, and areas of fine detail contrasted with areas with none at all.

Aubrey Beardsley was the most controversial artist of the Art Nouveau era, renowned for his dark and perverse images and the grotesque erotica, which were the main themes of his later work. Some of his drawings, inspired by Japanese shunga, featured enormous genitalia. His most famous erotic illustrations were on themes of history and mythology, including his illustrations for Aristophanes’ Lysistrata and Wilde’s Salomé. He also produced extensive illustrations for books and magazines (e.g. for a deluxe edition of Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur) and worked for magazines like The Savoy and The Studio. Beardsley also wrote Under the Hill, an unfinished erotic tale based loosely on the legend of Tannhäuser.

Beardsley was also a caricaturist and did some political cartoons, mirroring Wilde’s irreverent wit in art. Beardsley’s work reflected the decadence of his era and his influence was enormous, clearly visible in the work of the French Symbolists, the Poster art Movement of the 1890s and the work of many later-period Art Nouveau artists like Pape and Clarke.

Beardsley was a public character as well as a private eccentric. He said, “I have one aim—the grotesque. If I am not grotesque I am nothing.” Wilde said he had “a face like a silver hatchet, and grass green hair.” Beardsley was meticulous about his attire: dove-grey suits, hats, ties; yellow gloves. He would appear at his publisher’s in a morning coat and patent leather pumps.

Although Beardsley was aligned with the homosexual clique that included Oscar Wilde and other English aesthetes, the details of his sexuality remain in question. He was generally regarded as asexual—which is hardly surprising, considering his chronic illness and his devotion to his work. Speculation about his sexuality include rumors of an incestuous relationship with his elder sister, Mabel, who may have become pregnant by her brother and miscarried.

Through his entire career, Beardsley had recurrent attacks of the disease that would end it. He suffered frequent lung hemorrhages and was often unable to work or leave his home.

Beardsley’s emphasis of the erotic element is present in many of his drawings, but nowhere as boldly as in his illustrations for Lysistrata which were done for a privately printed edition at a time when he was totally out of favor with polite society. One of his last acts after converting to Catholicism was to plead with his publisher to “destroy all copies to Lysistrata and bad drawings…by all that is holy all obscene drawings.” His publisher, Leonard Smithers, not only ignored Beardsley wishes, but continued to sell reproductions and outright forgeries of Beardsley’s work.

Beardsley was active till his death in Menton, France, at the age of 25 on March 16, 1898, of tuberculosis.

www.beardsley.artpassions.net

Advertisements

Campy art deco: ERTE’

Romain de Tirtoff (November 23, 1892 – April 21, 1990) was a Russian-born French artist and designer known by the pseudonym Erté, the French pronunciation of his initials, R.T.

In 1910–12 Romain moved to Paris, France, to pursue a career as a designer. In 1915 he got his first substantial contract with Harper’s Bazaar magazine, and went on to an illustrious career that included designing costumes and stage sets.

Erté is perhaps most famous for his elegant fashion designs which capture the art deco period in which he worked. His delicate figures and sophisticated, glamorous designs are instantly recognizable, and his ideas and art influence fashion into the 21st century. His costumes and sets were featured in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1923, many productions of the Folies Bergère, and George White’s Scandals. In 1925, Louis B. Mayer brought him to Hollywood to design sets and costumes for a film called Paris. There were many script problems so Erte was given other assignments to keep him busy. He designed for such films as Ben-Hur, The Mystic, Time, the Comedian, Dance Madness and La bohème.

By far his best known image is Symphony in Black, depicting a tall, slender woman draped in black holding a thin black dog. The influential image has been reproduced and copied countless times.

Erté continued working throughout his life designing revues, ballets and operas. He had a major rejuvenation and much lauded interest in his career during the 1960s with the art deco revival. He branched out into the realm of limited edition prints, bronzes and art to wear. Museums around the world purchased dozens of his paintings for their collections.

A sizeable collection of work by Erté can be found at Museum 1999 in Tokyo.

“A resourceful woman who is almost downright plain can achieve the reputation of a beauty simply by announcing to everybody she meets that she is one.”

 

www.erte.com