(b Brighton, 21 Aug 1872; d Menton, 16 March 1898).
English draughtsman and writer. He was brought up in Brighton, in
genteel poverty, by his mother. She gave her children an intensive
education in music and books, and by the time he was sent to
boarding-school at the age of seven Beardsley was exceptionally
literate and something of a musical prodigy. He was also already
infected with the tuberculosis that eventually killed him. There is
evidence that his talent for drawing was highly developed by the age
of ten, and he was subsequently encouraged by his housemaster at
Brighton Grammar School, Arthur William King. Beardsley left school
at the end of 1888, and in January 1889 became a clerk at the
Guardian Life and Fire Insurance Company in the City of London.
Attacks of haemorrhaging of the lungs forced him to abandon his job
at the end of 1889. On the strength of a short story sold to Tit
Bits he tried to pursue a literary career, but when his health
improved in the spring of 1890, he returned both to his job and to
drawing. Final affirmation of the direction of his art came in July
1891, when he showed his work to Edward Burne-Jones, who told
Beardsley: ‘I seldom or never advise anyone to take up art as a
profession, but in your case I can do nothing else.’ Burne-Jones’s
enthusiasm is not perhaps surprising since there was much of his own
style in Beardsley’s work at the time, together with other
influences, notably Mantegna; both can be seen in his pen-and-ink
drawing Hamlet patris manem sequiiur (‘Hamlet following the ghost of
his father’; 1891; London, BM).
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