The Pennsylvania State University
Cover for the book Aubrey Beardsley

Aubrey Beardsley

Imp of the Perverse Stanley Weintraub
  • Copyright: 1976
  • Dimensions: 9 x 8
  • Page Count: 306 pages
  • Illustrations: 150 b&w illustrations
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-271-01215-5
  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-271-01216-2

At twenty, "the Fra Angelico of Satanism," as Roger Fry was to call Aubrey Beardsley, was working as an obscure clerk in a London life insurance company. Three years later he was the most notorious—and perhaps the most influential—artist in England. His controversial drawings for Oscar Wilde's Salome were so daring and different that someone quipped that Wilde's play illustrated Beardsley's art. His work as art editor of the two most famous magazines of the 1890's, The Yellow Book and The Savoy, consolidated his fame although he was unreasonably dragged into the Wilde scandal and nearly destroyed by it. By the time he produced his strikingly scabrous drawings for a pornographer publisher's Lysistrata he was dying, yet still incredibly productive. But he had already indelibly stamped the age with his name. In a front-page review in the New York Times Book Review in 1967, art critic John Russell wrote of Beardsley that "as a biography—a life's story" the book "needs no successsor." Aubrey Beardsley: Imp of the Perverse began as an updating of the original biography but new material at hand and the need to reinterpret Beardsley from the perspective of augmented life-records made a mere updating impractical, especially since the climate for publishing has become far more receptive to truth in biography, however explicit.

Stanley Weintraub, Research Professor of English and Director of the Institute for the Arts and Humanistic Studies at The Pennsylvania State University, has also published biographies and studies of Shaw, Wilde, Whistler, and Rossetti, and is one of the leading authorities on the late Victorian era.

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