Beardsley 150

Aubrey Vincent Beardsley (1872 – 1898)

Aubrey Beardsley sesquicentennial

—a time to draw your attention to a few AB things to see—


While Beardsley’s brief career was cut short aged 25 by his death from tuberculosis, he made an impact as a brilliant and daring innovator who often caused controversy by using satirical imagery to push gender and sexual boundaries.

On view at the Grolier Club in New York City from September 8 through November 12, 2022 is ‘Aubrey Beardsley, 150 Years Young’—an exhibition drawn from materials in the Mark Samuels Lasner Collection in the UD Library, Museums and Press.

The exhibition highlights the rebellious quality of his art and writing, celebrating the eternally young Beardsley, and exploring the meteoric rise of the 19th-century British artist, who became a monumental figure in book and magazine illustration, graphic arts and poster design, and the history of gender and sexuality.

The exhibition is assembled by a long-time Grolier Club member, Mark Samuels Lasner, and reflects both his own interests and expertise and those of his partner, Margaret D. Stetz, the Mae and Robert Carter Professor of Women’s Studies and Professor of Humanities at the University of Delaware.

Together they have curated this exhibition, and you can preview Margaret’s excellently assembled labels for project in an online version here: Grolier Club Online.

For those visiting the Exhibition Gallery in person the hours are Monday to Saturday, 10 AM—5 PM, and there will also be a printed catalogue coming later this Fall.

At the risk of being oxymoronic, Margaret Stetz is a most energetic decadent. Earlier this year we enjoyed her masked but still ‘in-person conversation’ on The Decadent Aubrey Beardsley at the Rosenbach in Philadelphia; and she also gave a talk in London at the recent conference AB 150: The Artist Resurgent organized by the Decadence Research Centre at Goldsmiths in association with the Aubrey Beardsley Society and Birkbeck Centre for Nineteenth-Century Studies. There have probably been myriad other events in between.

Also speaking at the conference was another Oscar Wilde Society stalwart: Anne Anderson of Exeter University, who, in turn, will be giving her own impressions of the Beardsley style in ‘Aubrey Beardsley: Enfant Terrible of the 1890s’ as part of three-part series of online lectures in September and October entitled: The Wilde Years: 1870-1900.

And to complete a female triumvirate of expertise, no review of contributors to the Beardsley oeuvre would be complete without reference to the canonical and comprehensive Aubrey Beardsley: A Catalogue Raisonné, a two volume set by Linda Gertner Zatlin, representing the first complete presentation of the provocative, modernist, graphic works of Beardsley. It is an essential work for both serious scholars and occasional researchers.

Aubrey Beardsley. A catalogue raisonné.
Zatlin, Linda Gertner

Preview the book here.

Beardsley and Vyvyan Holland

You may recall a post I made a few years ago about a CBS-TV arts show called ‘Camera Three’ which aired at 11:00 AM EST on Sunday, March 12, 1967.

It took the form of an interview with Brian Reade, then curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum, and contained reference to the V&A’s Aubrey Beardsley exhibition which had transferred to New York’s (then-named) Gallery of Modern Art.

During that segment there occurred a rare TV appearance by Oscar Wilde’s son, Vyvyan Holland. Not long after my article appeared the clip disappeared from the Internet because the owner had closed their YouTube channel. However, I have found it again.

Take a look below: filmed just seven months before Vyvyan Holland died in October of that year, it provides a chance to see his unassuming manner as he reveals personal experiences such as shooting moose and witnessing the bedridden (and bearded) Beardsley.

The part containing Vyvyan Holland begins around minute number 20.

[Creative Arts Television / Bridgeman Images: FOOTAGE Numero CTA620164]

Video link: Aubrey Beardsley discussion:

© John Cooper, 2022

Vyvyan Holland

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Declaring nothing apropos (except astonishment) I send this from America footage I recently discovered of Oscar Wilde’s son Vyvyan Holland.

It is in the form of a TV interview alongside Brian Reade, curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum, during a segment on the CBS TV arts program Camera Three about a V&A Aubrey Beardsley exhibition which had transferred to New York’s (then-named) Gallery of Modern Art.

The rare TV showing was a opportunity for Vyvyan to rival his more media savvy wife, Dorothy, who had made her latest appearance on American TV earlier in the month discussing fashion on the ABC show Girl Talk.

It provides a chance to see Vyvyan’s unassuming manner as he reveals personal experiences such as shooting moose and witnessing a bedridden bearded Beardsley.

Continue reading Vyvyan Holland

Finding Oscar

'Oscar Wilde`s Homeland' by Lysenko Igor

John Cooper expands on comments he made as a member of a panel discussion at the Oscar Wilde Festival in Galway, Ireland, in 2014, in which he appraised Wilde’s legacy and his personal response to it.

(I) RISE AND FALL

Finding Oscar Wilde during his lecture tour of America in 1882 presented few difficulties. Throughout the year he made hundreds of appearances in public and thousands in the press. But his transatlantic sojourn was not merely prolific, it was a surprisingly formative time that saw Wildean firsts in all aspects of his career. Professionally, he nurtured the art of public speaking, began lecturing, and conducted his first press interviews. In his personal life he entered a new sphere of poets, writers, and statesmen; and he embarked upon a lifelong pattern of occasionally earning, but of always spending, large sums of money. Creatively, he became increasingly familiar with formulating his thought into thesis, while socially he was gathering material and honing epigrams for use in his early essays, short stories, and dramatic dialogues. Perhaps most surprisingly, it was in America that he staged the first ever production of a Wilde play.1 And lastingly, it was in New York City that the predominant image we have of him was formed with a series of photographs taken by Napoleon Sarony. After America, one might say, Oscar had become famous for more than just being famous.

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Not surprisingly, given this degree of exposure and experience, contemporary opinion was that America had made a greater impression on Wilde than vice-versa. Supporting this view is the fact that his audiences, although they had attended his lectures, came to see rather than to hear him; and even though he was often personally liked, he was more often publicly ridiculed. Wilde’s maligned persona was so widespread that the ability to locate him in the abstract sense, even for those who had not seen him, also presented few difficulties. In sum: the breadth of his presence made Wilde familiar in person, and the stereotype of his character provided the measure of him as a personality.

We now see that Wilde cannot be so easily pigeon-holed.

Continue reading Finding Oscar

More on Boys’ Names

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The source of Oscar Wilde’s pun on Ernest/Earnest

In an earlier article I attempted to show that in John Gambril Nicholson’s verse Of Boys’ Names (Wilde’s putative source of the Ernest/Earnest pun) there are other boys’ names with Wildean parallels.

Research now leads me to a further connection.

In a back issue of The Book Collector (Summer, 1978), there is chapter about Nicholson’s 1892 Love in Earnest: Sonnets, Ballades, and Lyrics (the anthology  that includes the verse in question).

Continue reading More on Boys’ Names

Frankel and Earnest (and other boys’ names)

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Nicholas Frankel’s scholarly edition of The Annotated Importance of Being Earnest

I am fascinated by the editorial introduction and inter-leaf annotations in Nicholas Frankel’s new scholarly edition of The Annotated Importance of Being Earnest [1]. The publisher, Harvard University Press, tells us that Frankel’s running commentary, “ties the play closely to Wilde’s personal life and sexual identity, illuminating literary, biographical, and historical allusions.”

Quite right. The book includes not only insights into Wilde’s meaning, but also information about the chronology of Wilde’s textual changes, some of which were made four years after the play was first staged. All this is quite revelatory for those who, like me, appreciate the research that must have gone into it. Or, put another way, it’s the kind of thing you’ll like if you like that kind of thing.

However, this article is not a book review. I have something revelatory of my own.

Continue reading Frankel and Earnest (and other boys’ names)