BEARDSLEY: A Biography by Stanley Weintraub

BEARDSLEY: A Biography

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If Wilde was the ringmaster of London's fin de siecle circus, Beardsley was its young and wispy scenic designer. Yeats spoke admiringly of ""his strange satiric art"" and of his prose fragments, the Rabelaisian Under the Hill, but wondered why he didn't produce more than moonbeams and perfumed grotesques. A dead-pan Pound summed up the situation in the Cantos: ""'Beauty is difficult, Yeats,' said Aubrey Beardsley/when Yeats asked why he drew horrors/or at least not Burne-Jones/and Beardsley knew he was dying and had to/make his hit quickly..."" Sexless and tubercular, the orchidaceous Aubrey, dead at twenty-six, is once again a cultist darling, thanks to the revival of Art Nouveau and the chi-chi phenomenon known as Camp. Weintraub's biography, timely though it is, seems unlikely to advance the Beardsley reputation. Weintraub is a placid, uninspired scholar who does his homework competently enough and presents a ploddingly accurate survey of Beardsley's career: the Salome drawings, the troubled, funny history of The Yellow Book and The Savoy, and so forth. But clearly the author is temperamentally unsuited to render the real charm of these events or that of the personalities involved. Whistler, Wilde, Beardsley--they sound more like frustrated queens than geniuses of the drawing room, and the drama of Beardsley's peculiar heroism appears singularly fleshless.

Pub Date: July 14th, 1967
Publisher: Braziller