[Extracted, with slight alteration from Mark Samuels Lasner, A Selective Checklist of the Published Work of Aubrey Beardsley, published by Thomas G. Boss Fine Books in 1995]
There exist many forgeries of Beardsley's drawings. Most are fraudulent copies of genuine originals. Some are outright fakes, and still others might best be termed "pastiches," in which elements from existing works are combined to make a "new" image. Just who was responsible for specific deceptions is difficult to assess, the most likely culprits being three of Leonard Smithers's associates — John Black, Alfred Cooper, and H[arry]. S[idney]. Nichols — as well as possibly Smithers himself, and at least one American working in the period 1920-50. In his 1950 pamphlet, How to Detect Beardsley Forgeries, R. A. Walker gave detailed instructions on how to distinguish the wheat from the chaff, but even his guidelines are not foolproof. Provenance is, as always with artworks, of the greatest importance. Simply put, the authenticity of a purported Beardsley drawing without a credible history should be disbelieved until proven otherwise. (Inscriptions and Beardsley's signature in books should also be verified by experts.) This section contains a selection from the infamous volume of published forgeries, Fifty Drawings by Aubrey Beardsley.
FIFTY DRAWINGS BY AUBREY BEARDSLEY. Selected from the collection owned by Mr. H. S. Nichols. Published for subscribers only. New York: H. S. Nichols, 1920. Contains: 50 drawings, all forgeries. 47 reprinted (as spurious works) in The Collected Drawings of Aubrey Beardsley, checklist no. 197. Black cloth, dust jacket. [Gallatin pp. 13941; Reade and Dickinson D 50] Notes: 500 numbered copies signed by Nichols. The drawings, "exhibited, with 20 others, at Nichols' bookshop, 17 East 33rd Street, New York, 1419 April 1919," were at once denounced by A. E. Gallatin and Joseph Pennell. According to Gallatin, Haldane Macfall believed them to be the work of "at least two forgers," probably Nichols and one of his associates.
Examples of forgeries
- Oscar Wilde
- Portrait of Himself (Yellow Book, Vo. III)
- J. M. Whistler (half-portrait in profile)
- J. M. Whistler with Butterfly (caricature)
Last modified 1 November 2004