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Aubrey Beardsley Art and Illustration

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Fairy tale castle by Aubrey Beardsley from Le Morte d'Arthur illustrations

Aubrey Beardsley Art


These image collections feature illustrations by Aubrey Beardsley from Salomé, The Yellow Book, Le Morte d'Arthur and elsewhere.

About Aubrey Beardsley

Aubrey Beardsley was unknown in 1892. By the time of his death in 1898, a mere six years, he had broken through the Victorian unconscious and hurled England into the 20th century. Many of his drawing first made their appearance in books or magazines with relatively limited subscription. Despite this, his erotic, humorous, and haunting drawings came to be popular and have been for more than a hundred years.

New: Images from Le Morte d'Arthur. Also the naughty images that parody of Victorian sensibilities have moved to the naughty beardsley page so as not to block all of Beardsley.

About Art Passions: Art Passions began a tribute to artists whose work I grew up, and whose work has meaning for me personally. The list of artists on, including recent additions to the site, as well as other information are available on the home page.

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Excalibur rises from the lake, Aubrey Beardsley

Part 1: Images from Le Morte D'Arthur

Design for Binding

Cover design

Frontispiece for Volume 1

Ornamental page (blank)

Title page for Volume 1

How Uther Pendragon sent for the Duke of Cornwall and Igraine his wife and of their departing suddenly

Merlin taketh the child Arthur into his keeping

The Lady of the Lake Telleth Arthur of the Sword Excalibur

Of a damosel which came girt with a sworth for to find a man of such virtue to draw it out of the scabbard

How King Arthur took a wife, and wedded Guinever

How Merlin was assotted and doated on one of the ladies of the lake

Merlin and Nimue

Arthur and the strange mantle

How twelve aged ambassadors of Rome came to King Arthur

How Sir Launcelot and Sir Lionel department from the court

How four queens found Launcelot sleeping

Sir Launcelot and the witch Hellawes

How Beaumains came to King Arthur's court and demanded three petitions of King Arthur

How Sir Tristram de Liones was born

How La Beale Isoud nursed Sir Tristram

How Sir Tristram drank of the love drink

The achieving of the Sangreal

Sir Kay calls a young man La Cote Male Taile

How La Beale Isoud wrote to Sir Tristram

How King Marke found Sir Tristram

How Morgan Le Fay gave a shield to Sir Tristram

How Sir Tristram Jousted King Arthur

How King Mark and Sir Dinadan heard Sir Palomides mourning La Belle Isoud (page 1)

How King Mark and Sir Dinadan heard Sir Palomides mourning La Beale Isoud (page 2)

La Beale Isoud at joyous gard (page 1)

La Beale Isoud at joyous gard (page 2)

How Sir Launcelot fought with a dragon

How Sir Launcelot fought with a knight

How Sir Launcelot was known by Dame Elaine (page 1)

How Sir Launcelot was known by Dame Elaine (page 2)

Damosel comes for Launcelot at Pentecost

How Sir Percivale came to a recluse

How Sir Laucelot found a man of religion

How Sir Gawain and his marvellous dream

A devil in woman's likeness (page 1)

A devil in woman's likeness (page 2)

How Sir Galahad fought at a tournament

The Joy of achievement of the Sangreal

Guenever rode on maying (bk. XIX, ch. I)

Guenever rode on maying with knights (page 1)

Guenever rode on maying with knights (page 2)

Sir Gawaine to disclose the love between Sir Launcelot and Queen Guenever

How Sir Mordred took on him to be King of England

Excalibur in the Lake

Guenever in Mourning

Part 2 : Images from Salomé, The Yellow Book, and others. (no erotica)

Aubrey Beardsley, Venus

Felix Mendolssohn Bertholdy





Fruit Bearers

The Search for the Holy Grail

Savoy Cover 2



Return of Tannhauser



Death of Pierrot

Rose of Lima


Savoy Cover 1

Toilet of Helen



Part 3 : Victorian Parodies (the Beardsley erotica)

The Victorian Parodies have moved to Beardsley Victorian Parodies

Where to Buy Aubrey Beardsley Prints

Aubrey Beardsley Art Prints at Artsy Craftsy

Isolde, from The Studio, 1895 Salome Lady with a Monkey Girl and Bookshop Withered Spring

Aubrey Beardsley Short Bio

Born to middle-class parents in 1872, Aubrey Beardsley grew up beneath the looming shadow of tuberculosis. Perhaps it was that threat of early demise which created from a frail and awkward young man a manically prolific artist who, despite his brief 26 years, managed to carve out for himself not only a place amidst the artistic bohemian elite of the time but a permanent niche amidst the revolutionaries of art.

Although he received what amounted to almost no training in art, Beardsley's first assignment came early in life with Malory's Le Morte D'Arthur, a popular version of the Arthurian legends.

The young artist was still enamored with his Pre-Raphaelite idols and heavily applied to the illustrations Burne-Jones' medieval thoughtfulness, delicate profiles, and intricate scroll-work. Yet already his chapter headings were populated with dumb-founding cameo appearances from satyrs, nymphs, and other woodland creatures most certainly not of Arthurian origin. Further, his idea of an adventurous knight was not that of a bearded, burly male but of a slender, effeminate youth.

The illustrations, despite their caprices, were well-received and young Aubrey's portfolio didn't go unnoticed by critics and peers alike. His Parisian connection with Oscar Wilde's circle of acquaintances lead to the creation of a series of drawings for Salome, Wilde's only play written in French. Already dismissive of his early English mentors and taken by the delicate art of Japan so popularized by James McNeill Whistler, Beardsley fled the medieval wood for flat and nearly abstract arrangements of sensuous figures: all this much to the annoyance of the play's author, who requested "Byzantine" drawings and was probably equally unimpressed with Aubrey's caricatures of Wilde (among them the round face of the full moon and Herod's court jester with a copy of the play in hand).

Reputation for such "naughtiness" didn't prevent Aubrey from being sought after by the Yellow Book, a printed outlet for some of the most brilliant literary minds of the time (such as Yeats and Henry James). His editorial assignment quickly ended when, in 1895, the Wilde scandal broke. Beardsley, though friends with many of the famous homosexuals of his time, was never involved in the blackmail and prostitution which eventually sealed Wilde's fate. He was nonetheless relieved of his duties at the Yellow Book.

In 1895, with time fleeting from the young consumptive, Aubrey took to conquering the literary world. Despite his diligence he managed to create only three poems, as well as Under the Hill, an unfinished novel about a dandy who travels into a decadent underworld presided over by Venus herself. In a language as extravagant as his drawings, he recounts the adventures of Tannenhauser in Venusburg, with characters such as the lusty aging chaperone, a rather desperate unicorn and a cast of various ardent fetishists.

As months passed, the unfortunate association with Wilde was forgotten and Aubrey took a position at The Savoy, where he brought his ingeniousness to such ouvres as Les Liasons Dangereuses and Das Rheingold. In the same years he also took to illustrating two literary works which would showcase the range of his style: The Rape of the Lock by Alexander Pope and Lysistrata by Aristophanes. The former presented Beardsley's characteristic line work at its complex best. The latter payed homage to its ability to be ingeniously simplistic yet faithful to the narrative and the nature of the literary text. Pope's satire is reflected in the effervescent dotted line which scrolls into the wealthy costumes and furnishings of the 18th century setting. The privately printed Lysistrata is truthful not only to the barren backdrops of Greek comedy but also to its original vulgar humour of giant codpieces worn by the actors to convey the frustration of Athenian men over the women's sex strike.

Over the brief years of his career, Beardsley's notoriety grew and caricatures as well as critiques of his style appeared everywhere. He seemed to have a weakness for sneaking lewd grotesques into every dark corner of his illustrations; his women sported large, smirking mouths, wanton and outrageous to the contemporary onlooker. His no-shading style, ideal for eye-catching advertisements and incredibly fresh in its time, was vastly imitated. Nicknames such as Baudry Weirdsley were assigned and various absurd tales about the odd-looking youth multiplied. One claimed that Aubrey could only work by a solitary candle, with windows shut out by thick black curtains, in a room painted completely black.

Regardless, Beardsley unquestionably created not only a revolution of line but of thought as well. His bluntness posed frustration because it did not compromise beauty; and in a time when a woman's allure lay in her passivity, he stubbornly portrayed her as a free thinking, sexually complex, and even dominating figure.

Beardsley's last months were devoted to his literary passions. Among his final illustrations were those for The Forty Thieves and Volpone. Following in the example of many decadent artists of his day such as Paul Verlaine and J.K. Huysmans, the dying Aubrey converted to Catholicism. Tuberculosis claimed him in 1898.

Source: Alex Goluszko