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Aubrey Vincent Beardsley

 

 


Beardsley Aubrey

(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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