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The Movement And Style Of Aubrey Beardsley And The Art Nouveau Movement

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The Art Nouveau movement stands as a marked shift in artistic production and artist liberties as it existed between two worlds: it was simultaneously fantastical and irrevocably real. It offered a return to the natural with characteristics like meandering curvilinear shapes and bold colorings. There is no artist within the Art Nouveau movement that was better equipped to “know and see the dance of the seven veils,” (Zatlin, 8) than Aubrey Beardsley. To attempt discussions of the complexity of Art Nouveau without including Beardsley is to not fully envelop the movement and style, as Beardsley himself moved between the two worlds of the fantastical and the real. He illustrated the sexuality and grotesque decadence of the era while maintaining…show more content…
His timeline and life story begs to be romanticized: from his death at the age of 26 to his decadent time in Paris with Oscar Wilde and others, Beardsley reveled in the mysticism of his own life. Through his highly distinctive and recognizable artistic style of black ink illustrations, he received near instantaneous acclaim as he sought to shock his audience out of complacency (Benekovitz) with stunningly grotesque works like “The Dancer’s Reward” (1894) from Salome. As an editor once observed in 1895, Beardsley’s “ruling passion is a desire to astonish the public with the unexpected,” (Kahn, C22) and by that manifesto, Beardsley put up a spectacle with thought provoking illustrations that introduced a new iteration of the Art Nouveau. Beardsley delighted in the act of putting on a production, particularly when it came to himself as he crafted a mystifying public face that exuded an air of artistic voyeurism. Anna Gruetzner Robins lays out this particular persona in her article, “Demystifying Aubrey Beardsley” asserting that his persona, “…combined an extravagant version of sartorial elegance with a belligerent conversational style, a mixture of ‘common language and popular idiom’,” (442). In an interview, Beardsley himself claimed, “if I am not grotesque, I am nothing,” (Meis, II) and it is that statement that further returns him to his station as the Victor Frankenstein of Art Nouveau. He set out to create something disturbingly haunting and striking, both in his illustrations and his writings. If he cannot bring forward the fantastically witty and erotic reality that rests in the subconscious of his Victorian society, then he is not successful as above all, Aubrey Beardsley was a performer. He lived in a world of dualities: The dichotomy between the reality of his health and the robust artistic persona he
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