Tag Archives: Aubrey Beardsley


Beardsley was an emblem of his era: dandy, aesthete, decadent. But for all that emphasis on surfaces and affectation and decor, on art not just free of tendentious moralizing but on a mission to be stylishly, poetically, outrageously amoral or immoral, there was also an ethical imperative: The stormy, magnificent sea is a must all the time. No beauty without violence. No sublimity without corruption. No mores or directives or psalters or self-improvements. These are the crude outlines of the Moral Philosophy of the Exquisite…

Consider the contrast with the prevailing mores of today: Despite the immense degree of sexual freedom that characterizes our time, there is a resurgent compulsion toward stricter morality, a kind of rectitude that oddly mirrors the “repressive” Victorian era and its regime of endless self-improvement, bodily as well as intellectual, moral, and spiritual; self-help was another invention of the nineteenth century. — David Rimanelli

A video tour of Tate Britain’s suspended show AUBREY BEARDSLEY will be available this week on YouTube and the museum’s website, which also provides an illustrated exhibition guide and a short film about the artist.


From Monday, April 13.

Tate Britain

Aubrey Beardsley, from top: The Climax, 1893, line block print on paper, from A Portfolio of Aubrey Beardsley’s Drawings Illustrating Salome by Oscar Wilde (John Lane, 1907); The Woman in the Moon, 1893, line block print on paper; Black Coffee, 1895, line block print on paper, Harvard Art Museums / Fogg Museum; Design for the Frontispiece to John Davidson’s Plays, 1894, Tate Britain; Enter Herodias, 1893, ink on paper, from A Portfolio of Aubrey Beardsley’s Drawings Illustrating Salome by Oscar Wilde; The Cave of Spleen; 1896, illustration to Alexander Pope’s The Rape of the Lock, William Sturgis Bigelow Collection, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; The Yellow Book, vol. 1, 1894; Two Athenian Women in Distress, 1896, from The Lysistrata of Aristophanes,published by Leonard Smithers, collotype print on paper; Self-Portrait, 1892, British Museum; Lysistrata Shielding her Coynte, 1896, illustration to the frontispiece for The Lysistrata by Aristophanes, pen & ink over traces of preparatory graphite; Lysistrata Haranguing the Athenian Women, 1896; The Black Cape, 1893, line block print on paper; Frederick EvansAubrey Beardsley, 1893, Wilson Centre for Photography, London. Photographs of images courtesy and © Tate.


“What Camp taste responds to is instant character… [which] is understood as a state of continual incandescence—a person being one, very intense thing.”Susan Sontag, “Notes on ‘Camp’ “*

SALOME is an opera of instant character, and its exaltation of lust remains undiluted. Bodies and things are transposed, and the protagonists begin and end the narrative as unattainable objects of desire: Herod will never possess his step-daughter Salome, and Salome will never possess the prisoner Jochanaan (John the Baptist).

“Jochanaan, you were so beautiful….Your body was like a garden….You saw your God, but you never saw me.” — Salome

In 1905, Richard Strauss adapted Hedwig Lachmann’s German translation of Oscar Wilde’s play (which was written in French), and the first hour of the opera is a modern fever of polyrhythms and bitonality (the “Salome scale”). As the fatal obstinacy of Salome and Jochanaan hardens, the swift pace gives way to measured deliberation. In the current L.A. Opera production, beautifully conducted by James Conlon, soprano Patricia Racette embodies Salome—voice, body, and soul—and brings down the house.



Saturday, February 25 at 7:30 pm; Thursday, March 2 at 7:30 pm; Sunday, March 5 at 2 pm; Thursday, March 16 at 7:30 pm; and Sunday, March 19 at 2 pm.


*”Notes on ‘Camp’ ” was published in the Fall, 1964 issue of Partisan Review, and is included in the Library of America edition Susan Sontag: Essays of the 1960s & 70s.

Note on the illustration: In 2016, the L.A. Opera and the philanthropic initiative GRoW@Annenberg invited students from Southern California colleges to participate in the opera company’s first ever art contest. Marshall Dahlin of Cal State Fullerton was the first place winner, and his design illustrates the cover of the Salome program. The artwork is a less-epicene nod to Aubrey Beardsley’s drawings for the first English translation of Wilde’s play (and Marcus Behmer’s for the German edition), and locates the decapitation-as-castration theme of the piece.

Marshall Dahlin, Salome Image credit: LA Opera

Marshall Dahlin, Salome. Image credit: LA Opera