Aubrey Beardsley was born in Brighton, England in 1872.
While a clerk for a life insurance company in London, his growing interest in art led him to the
Westminster School of Art. Around the time of a visit to Paris in 1892 at the young age of
nineteen, he was commissioned to produce illustrations for a reprinting of Le Morte d'Arthur
which was published in 1894 with a number of Beardsley's Gothic illustrations.
Due to its popularity, it went through two more printings, each one with additional
visual material. By the time of his death in 1898, Beardsley had become one of the most famous of
the illustrators of the Art Nouveau period. He died at Mentone, France, 16 March, 1898 at the
young age of 25.
"He had the fatal speed of those who are to die young; that disquieting
completeness and extent of knowledge, that absorption of a lifetime in an hour, which we find
in those who hasten to have done their work before noon, knowing that they will not see the evening.
He had played the piano in drawing-rooms as an infant prodigy, before, I suppose, he had ever drawn
"Famous at twenty as a draughtsman, he found time, in those incredibly busy years
which remained to him, to deliberately train himself as a writer of prose, which was in its way as
original as his draughtsmanship, and into a writer of verse which had at least ingenious and
original movements. He seemed to have read everything, and had his preferences as adroitly in
order, as wittily in evidence, as almost any man of letters; indeed, he seemed to know more,
and was a sounder critic, of books than of pictures; with perhaps a deeper feeling for music
that for either.
"His conversation had a peculiar kind of brilliance, different in order, but
scarce inferior in quality to that of any other contemporary master of that art; a salt,
whimsical dogmatism, equally full of convinced egoism and of imperturbable keen-sightedness.
Generally choosing to be paradoxical, and vehement on behalf of any enthusiasm of the mind, he
was the dupe of none of his own statements, or indeed of his own enthusiasms, and, really, very
"He thought, and was right in thinking, very highly of himself; he admired
himself enormously; but his intellect would never allow itself to be deceived even about his
Excerpt from a memoir by Arthur Symons
his illustrations for Malory's le Morte in the Arthurian Art subarea