Art / design

Who Knows Aubrey Beardsley?

Illustration for Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death”, Aubrey Beardsley, 1894-95.

Aubrey Beardsley was one of those unique illustrators during the time of what we call Art Nouveau, that sought out a strange world so different than the reality of the period. His images, highly suggestive and erotic, were full of all the curves and exaggerations that this movement promoted and saw as modern. In fact, he and others with the same vision were said to use the Modern Style. It always struck me that a better name should have been devised for this bizarre view of a fantastic, dream like world created by the likes of Aubrey Beardsley and others. In fact, the appellation of surrealism might be in order. Say, the pre-surrealists!

However, Beardsley’s most extreme problem was his early death at the age of 25. Nevertheless, he was able to produce a considerable number of images before his demise.

Now, if you thought this article would be about the late, great Aubrey Beardsley, I’ve used a bit of trickery to seduce you to his illustrations but instead will show you the illustrations of a Harry Clarke.

Illustration for Edgar Allan Poe’s story “Ligeia”, Harry Clarke, 1919. (Printed in Edgar Allan Poe’s Tales of Mystery and Imagination, 1919.)

Also, I will narrow down his works to one book – (Harry Clarke worked in different mediums, which included stained glass.) – his fantastic illustrations for Goethe’s Faust. The main reason for this parsing of Harry Clarke’s work is justified with the knowledge that I possess an original copy of this incredible book. Oblivious to the fact that this work may be valuable, I have come to the notion that I might document the amazing works it contains. Since the illustrations all come from one book, the captions are missing to save from having to type the same information ad nauseum.

One suggestion for practice or serious endeavor, try taking a favorite poem or book of poetry or favorite story and illustrate the works. I used to engage in such work in my younger days. I remember illustrating many a poem of Poe, for instance. One of my favorites was the “Conqueror Worm” which I illustrated in ink in an Art Nouveau manner. I will try and post these illustrations upon finding where they might be.

With extreme frustration, I must confess that not one date exists in this book of Faust to inform us as to when it was published. I have seen other issues but not from the same publisher. If I weren’t so indolent, I would dig deeper as I would have in my college years. Alas, I can live quite happily not knowing the publication date, presently.

The following are scans of the illustrations in the book, presented as one would see them in reading, from first to the last page.

Self-Portrait, Oil on Canvas, 2010

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