Beardsley, Aubrey (artist)

Reference: MS 160Date: 1878-1947Extent: 1 box

Aubrey Beardsley (1872–1898) was a British illustrator and writer who was a leading figure in the aesthetic movement. His distinctive black and white drawings, inspired by the style of Japanese woodcuts, were published in editions of famous works and magazines. His images often highlighted the grotesque, decadent and erotic nature of his subjects.

His first published work was included in his school’s magazine and, after a few office jobs, he was convinced to pursue art as a profession. In 1892 he attended classes at the Westminster School of Art. In the same year, he travelled to Paris where he drew inspiration from the Parisian passion for Japanese prints.

His first commission was to provide illustrations for an edition of Le Morte d’Arthur by Thomas Malory published by J.M. Dent and Company in 1893. Beardsley co-founded The Yellow Book for which he produced cover designs and other illustrations. He also worked for other magazines including The Studio and The Savoy. He produced illustrations for Oscar Wilde’s Salome and an 1896 edition of The Rape of the Lock by Alexander Pope.

He suffered from regular attacks of tuberculosis during his career. He moved to the French Riviera in 1897 in an attempt to improve his health but died less than a year later.

This collection contains letters written by Beardsley 1878–1897 and letters written after his death about his work by his sister Mabel Beardsley, by John Lane, and to Rainforth Armitage Walker. There are also photographs and examples of Beardsley’s work, as well as other sundry papers.

More information

  • A full description is available on our online database.
  • A handlist of the whole collection is available here
  • See also a list of other writers’ and artists’ archives here.

Sources from our library collections

There are books containing Beardsley’s illustrations in our rare book collections:

Also find books about Beardsley’s work in our open access library: