The influence of the artist Aubrey Beardsley is way out of proportion to his time on this earth: at only 25, in 1898, he died of tuberculosis. His imagery—spare in black and white, yet curvaceously stylized, and rich in decorative energy—was formative for the Art Nouveau movement (Beardsley’s illustrations for Oscar Wilde’s play Salome seem to symbolize the era). Susan Sontag listed his drawings in her “canon of Camp,” no doubt because of their “consistently aesthetic experience of the world.” Influenced early by the Pre-Raphaelites, Beardsley went on to give us the erotic underworld of all those dreaming knights and maidens. The largest exhibition of his drawings in 50 years—organized by the Musée d’Orsay, the Musée de l’Orangerie, Paris, and the Tate Britain, London—“Aubrey Beardsley” opened at the Tate Britain on March 4, and closed soon thereafter due to the coronvirus. Here, Tate curators Caroline Corbeau-Parsons and Alice Insley discuss the illustrator’s astonishing career. —L.J.
Travels to: Musée d’Orsay, Paris (October 13, 2020–January 10, 2021).
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