The English artist Aubrey Beardsley (1872 – 1898) is one of the greatest creators of Modernist painting, and yet he only painted one oil in his life, since his artistic production focused on graphic work, like these illustrations for the book of Salome by his friend Oscar Wilde which he made in 1894, on the occasion of the presentation of his work in France.
Illustration of Wilde's Salome, after Beardsley
Throughout his short life, he died at the age of 26 from tuberculosis, he made countless illustrations destined for mass production. And his work was accompanied by scandal, since it was about completely new forms in which different influences can be traced such as Greek pottery, Japanese prints or Whistler or Burne-Jones painting.
In his production there is a clear inclination towards eroticism and mysterious themes, which, together with his peculiar way of conceiving images, made many of the most well-thinking critics of the time consider it an art decadent. But instead with the passage of time the Beardsley illustrations are today cataloged as very refined images and at the top of the art of Modernism.
The series of illustrations for Wilde's work are a good example of this. First,It must be said that these are completely two-dimensional images. It never takes into account issues of perspective or depth. And the drawing, the line, generally in black and white, has an absolute predominance. He drew without previous sketches, he draws first in pencil and then illustrates with Chinese ink. It is a highly ornamental drawing, based on tremendous compositional freedom, based on curves, the most sinuous lines or impossible diagonals. All this of great beauty and above all elegance. For which he did not hesitate to resort to anachronisms in the costumes or the sets of his scenes.
he does not take into account at all questions regarding the realism of the anatomy of the figures, much less the veracity in the forms of nature. He is also not interested in the treatment of light and shadows in a classical sense. He as soon as he places dotted lines like big black spots. The result is that it looks like a flat art, but extremely attractive.
He is a completely self-taught creator, and in just six years of activity, from his 20s until his death, he created images of enormous influence on all subsequent graphic design. Despite criticism for his forms and his hedonism, and even the macabre themes, he achieved prestige in his time and was the editor of several high-level publications such as The Yellow Book (1894 -1895) or The Savoy (1896). In addition to being chosen to illustrate not only this work by the Irishman Wilde, but also others by ancient and contemporary authors such as Aristophanes orEdgard Allan Poe. In addition to that his art was required for the creation of numerous advertising posters.