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Aubrey Beardsley (1872-1898)

Aubrey Vincent Beardsley (1872-1898)

Though Aubrey Beardsley was initially influenced by the Pre-Raphaelites, he soon outgrew them, and developed his own unique style, at once sophisticated and provocative. During his brief flowering in the fin de siècle, the elegant restraint of his art emulated Japanese prints and Rococo painting, while the elegant restraint of his life surpassed those of his friends and rivals, James McNeill Whistler and Oscar Wilde.

Aubrey Beardsley was born at 12 Buckingham Road, Brighton, Sussex, on 21 August 1872, the son of Vincent Beardsley and his wife, Ellen Agnus (née Pitt). He grew up in an atmosphere of genteel poverty, in which his ambitious mother ensured that he became a precocious student of literature and music. At the age of seven, he contracted the then incurable disease of tuberculosis and was sent off to improve his health, first at nearby Hurstpierpoint, and then at Epsom. In 1884, he returned to Brighton and soon became a boarder at Brighton Grammar School, where it was recognised that he had a talent for drawing.

In 1888, at the age of 16, Beardsley moved with his family to London, where financial circumstances forced him to work as a clerk in an Islington surveyor’s office, and later at the Guardian Fire and Life Assurance Company in Lombard Street.

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