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2 mars 2020

Aubrey Beardsley at Tate Britain


Aubrey Beardsley (1872-1898)Illustration for Oscar Wilde’s Salome 1893, The Peacock Skirt. Line block print on paper. Stephen Calloway. Photo: © Tate.

LONDON - Tate Britain’s major new exhibition celebrates the brief but astonishing career of Aubrey Beardsley. Although he died tragically young at the age of just 25, Beardsley’s strange, sinuous black-and-white images have continued to shock and delight for over a century. Bringing together 200 spectacular works, this is the largest display of his original drawings in over 50 years and the first exhibition of his work at Tate since 1923.

Beardsley (1872-98) became one of the enfants terribles of fin-de-siècle London, best remembered for illustrating Oscar Wilde's controversial play SaloméHis opulent imagery anticipated the elegance of Art Nouveau but also alighted on the subversive and erotic aspects of life and legend, shocking audiences with a bizarre sense of humour and fascination with the grotesque. Beardsley was prolific, producing hundreds of illustrations for books, periodicals and posters in a career spanning just under seven years. Line block printing enabled his distinct black-and-white works to be easily reproduced and widely circulated, winning notoriety and admirers around the world, but the original pen and ink drawings are rarely seen. Tate Britain exhibits a huge array of these drawings, revealing his unrivalled skill as a draughtsman in exquisite detail.

The Black Cape 1893

Aubrey Beardsley (1872-1898)Illustration for Oscar Wilde’s Salome 1893, The Black Cape. Line block print on paper. Stephen Calloway. Photo: © Tate.

The exhibition highlights each of the key commissions that defined Beardsley’s career as an illustrator, notably Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur 1893-4, Wilde’s Salomé 1893 and Alexander Pope’s The Rape of the Lock 1896, of which five of the original drawings are shown together for the first time. As art director of the daring literary quarterly The Yellow Book, the artist also created seminal graphic works that came to define the decadence of the era and scandalised public opinion. Bound editions and plates are displayed alongside subsequent works from The Savoy and illustrations for Volpone 1898 and Lysistrata 1896, in which Beardsley further explored his fascination with eroticism and the absurd.


Aubrey Beardsley (1872-1898)The Climax, 1893 (published 1907). Line block print on paper. Stephen Calloway. Photo: © Tate.

The Yellow Book Volume I 1894

Aubrey Beardsley (1872-1898), The Yellow Book Volume I, 1894. Bound volume. Stephen Calloway. Photo: © Tate.

How la Beale Isoud Wrote to Sir Tristram c

Aubrey Beardsley (1872-1898), The Slippers of Cinderella, 1894. Ink and watercolour on paper. Mark Samuels Lasner Collection, University of Delaware Library, Museums and Press.


Aubrey Beardsley (1872-1898), How la Beale Isoud Wrote to Sir Tristram, c.1893. Ink on paper, 276 x 215 mm. Alessandra and Simon Wilson.

Volpone Adoring his Treasure 1898

Aubrey Beardsley (1872-1898), Volpone Adoring his Treasure, 1898. Ink over graphite on paper, 290 x 204 mm. Courtesy of the Princeton University Library.

How Arthur saw the Questing Beast 1893

Aubrey Beardsley (1872-1898), How Arthur saw the Questing Beast, 1893. Ink and wash on paper, 378 x 270 mm. Victoria and Albert Museum.

Beardsley’s imagination was fuelled by diverse cultural influences, from ancient Greek vases and Japanese woodblock prints, to illicit French literature and the Rococo. He also responded to his contemporaries such as Gustave Moreau, Edward Burne-Jones and Toulouse Lautrec, whose works are shown at Tate Britain to provide context for Beardsley’s individual mode of expression. A room in the exhibition is dedicated to portraits of Beardsley and the artist’s wider circle, presenting him at the heart of the arts scene in London in the 1890’s despite the frequent confinement of his rapidly declining health. As notorious for his complex persona as he was for his work, the artist had a preoccupation with his own image, relayed throughout the exhibition by striking self-portraits and depictions by the likes of Walter Sickert and Jacques-Emile Blanche.

Salome - The Peacock Skirt 1893

Aubrey Beardsley (1872-1898), Self Portrait, 1892. Ink on paper. British Museum. 


Frederick Evans (1853-1943), Portrait of Aubrey Beardsley, 1893. Photo-etching and platinum print on paper, 115 x 165 mm. Wilson Centre for Photography.

Additional highlights include a selection of Beardsley’s bold poster designs and his only oil painting. Charles Bryant and Alla Nazimova’s remarkable 1923 film Salomé is also screened in a gallery adjacent to Beardsley’s illustrations, showcasing the costume and set designs they inspired. The exhibition closes with an overview of Beardsley’s legacy from Art Nouveau to the present day, including Picasso‘s Portrait of Marie Derval 1901 and Klaus Voormann’s iconic artwork for the cover of Revolver 1966 by the Beatles.

Aubrey Beardsley is organised by Tate Britain in collaboration with the Musée d’Orsay, Paris, with the generous support of the V&A, private lenders and other public institutions. It is curated by Caroline Corbeau-Parsons, Curator of British Art 1850-1915, and Stephen Calloway with Alice Insley, Assistant Curator, Historic British Art.

4 March - 25 May 2020

The Dream 1896

Aubrey Beardsley (1872-1898), The Dream, 1896. Ink over graphite on paper, 257 x 178 mm. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.

The Lady with the Rose 1897

Aubrey Beardsley (1872-1898), The Lady with the Rose, Verso, 1897. Ink, wash and graphite on paper, 199 x 167 mm. Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Bequest of Scofield Thayer.