Saturday, 24 August 2013


In February 1893, Wilde's scandalous play Salome was published in its original French version. An illustration inspired by the drama (reproduced in Joseph Pennell's article, "A New Illustrator: Aubrey Beardsley," in the inaugural issue of The Studio) was admired by Wilde and Beardsley was commissioned 50 guineas to Illustrate the English edition. This assignment was the beginning of celebrity but also of an uneasy, and at times unpleasant, friendship with Wilde, which officially ended when Wilde was tried and convicted of sodomy in 1895.

Beardsley's fame was established for all time when the first volume The Yellow Book appeared in April 1894. This famous quarterly of art and literature, for which Beardsley served as art editor and the American expatriate Henry Harland as literary editor, brought the artist's work to a larger public. It was Beardsley's stark black-and-white drawings, title-pages, and covers which, combined with the writings of the so-called "decadents," a unique format, and publisher John Lane's remarkable marketing strategies, made the journal an overnight sensation. Although well received by much of the public, The Yellow Book was attacked by critics as indecent and obscene. So strong was the perceived link between Beardsley, Wilde, and The Yellow Book that Beardsley was dismissed in April 1895 from his post as art editor following Wilde's arrest, even though Wilde had in fact never contributed to the magazine.

This blog post was compiled using sources from the web.


  1. I've always loved Beardsley's art! Some of it is less sexually explicit than this, and I wonder if anyone has ever had a tattoo of one of his drawings. I think his work would lend itself to that.
    I didn't know he was dismissed from a job as editor following Wilde's arrest. Such a lot of moral panic!

  2. Yes, I've always loved Beardsley's art. I am sure that there are some more explicit drawings around, but I couldn't find them for the blog post. A tattoo -- it would have to be someone with an incredible talent. Almost as much talent as Beardsley himself. No, I didn't know that he was tainted by his association with Wilde either. Thank goodness times have changed.

  3. Billierosie, a tattoo artist would not need to create an original work. One of Beardsley's drawings could be photocopied and placed on someone's skin as a stencil, then the tattoo artist would just ink in the lines. (The tattooist would have to be careful, but I assume that's a requirement of the job.) A young woman in my town recently got a tattoo of Paul McCartney's signature that way. When he performed in the local football stadium on Aug 14, she was holding a sign saying "Please sign my tattoo." After a set, Sir Paul invited her onstage and asked her to explain. She said she wanted him to sign her arm, then she would go to the tattoo shop next morning, and have the signature engraved on her skin. He obliged her (to great applause), she followed through, and her photo appeared in the local newspaper next day.