A delicate lattice of black and white lines,
Aubrey Beardsley's confrontational Venus at her Toilet
reflects the artist's bold stylistic blend of
Pre-Raphaelitism and his own biting societal critique
of the Victorian era. The highly ornate Venus at her Toilet almost looses its content within Beardsley's
intricate web of design. The elaborate patterning of
points to the influence of William
Morris' commercial designs. Similar to Morris' textile
designs, Beardsley's illustration flows continuously
throughout the composition space. What is more, Venus
at her Table embodies the Pre-Raphaelite views of
realism and emotive subject matter. Paying close
attention to fine detail, Beardsley weaves his
figures' hair and gowns seamlessly into the equally
sumptuous background. Despite its lavishness, Venus at
her table still maintains visual clarity through the
photographic contrast of dark and light.
Initially Venus at her Toilet appears organic in
nature, but after closer inspection Beardsley's
vine-like lines form a coherent pictorial space. What
is more, Beardsley's stylistic decadence serves as a
masking device, which conceals the illustrations
social agenda under the pretense of ornate frivolity.
Venus at her Table portrays a scene of material
extravagance, wherein the lavishness of the figures
and material objects almost merge into an
indistinguishable design. Thus, Beardsley's
illustration ultimately acts as a societal comment on
excessive consumerism and its potential convolute
1. In what ways does Beardsley's Venus at her Toilet
rework PRB precepts of realism and emotionality?
2. How does Beardsley's s Venus at her Toilet and its
depiction of women compare to that of PRB?
3. What are the stylistic parallels between Venus at her Toilet and Morris' design work?
Last modified 4 December 2006