uring his short, if brilliant, career, Aubrey Beardsley worked as an illustrator whose works often overshadowed or dominated the texts they were supposed to be decorating. Part of the reason for his works' power lies in the fact that Beardsley was the first illustrator to see the artistic implications of the new photographic processes used to transfer the artist's drawings to mechanical means of reproduction. During the golden age of book illustration, artists had used the resources of wood-engraving to produce a powerful art capable of handling light and shade, though some, like Arthur Boyd Houghton, W. Holman Hunt, and J. E. Millais, made particularly effective use of pure line and large white areas. In contrast, the new photographic processes, which made creating large areas of pure black and white very easy, lead in Beardsley to an art of opposing black and white masses.
In moving toward his dramatic compositions, which flatten or negate space, Beardsley draws upon many fashionable sources -- the shallow or flattened space popularized by Rossetti and Burne-Jones, the compositional principles of the Japanese print, and the influence of the French from Manet through Monet.
Added to the Victorian Web: 1991; last modified: 7 February 2001