Aubrey Beardsley: A Brighton Boy
30 July to 22 January 2023
Free with Brighton Museum & Art Gallery admission, members and residents free
This small display celebrates the 150th anniversary of Aubrey Beardsley’s birth. It explores the life and work of the artist with an emphasis on his childhood in Brighton and the time he spent at Brighton Grammar School. The small display includes objects from RPMT collections, The Keep, and private lenders.
Aubrey Beardsley scandalised and delighted the late Victorians with his decadent black and white drawings. The illustrator created erotic and elegant art, both humorous and grotesque, which is now often viewed through the prism of a queer perspective.
Beardsley’s connections with Oscar Wilde and the Decadent movement of the 1890s brought fame and attention. Provocative and extraordinary, his black-and-white drawings were instantly recognisable.
It was at Brighton Grammar School that Beardsley developed his talents. He wrote poetry, some of which was published in the school magazine. He began to explore art and drew caricatures of his schoolmasters, as well as contributing illustrations to the programme for a school theatre production. He excelled at acting and took part in regular performances.
His black ink drawings depicted the grotesque, the decadent, and the erotic and he was a leading figure in the aesthetic movement. In 1894 Beardsley became art editor of The Yellow Book, a journal of new art and literature. Success came but it was short lived. When Oscar Wilde was arrested for gross indecency in 1895, Beardsley was swept up in the scandal and lost his position. Success and scandal both took their toll on his fragile health, and he died in France at the age of just twenty-five.