Aubrey Beardsley [Edit]

Aubrey Beardsley (1872-1898) was an English illustrator.

Beardsley was the most controversial artist of the Art Nouveau era, renowned for images widely considered dark and perverse and erotica widely considered grotesque, which were the main themes of his later work. His illustrations were in black and white against a white background. Some of his drawings, inspired by Japanese shunga artwork, featured enormous genitalia. His most famous erotic illustrations concerned themes of history and mythology; these include his illustrations for a privately printed edition of Aristophanes’ Lysistrata and his drawings for Oscar Wilde’s play Salome, which eventually premiered in Paris in 1896.

Beardsley converted to Catholicism in March 1897. The next year, the last letter before his death was to his publisher Leonard Smithers and close friend Herbert Charles Pollitt, saying:

Postmark: March 7 1898 | Jesus is our Lord and Judge | Dear Friend, I implore you to destroy all copies of Lysistrata and bad drawings … By all that is holy, all obscene drawings. | Aubrey Beardsley | In my death agony.

However, both men ignored Beardsley’s wishes, and Smithers continued to sell reproductions as well as forgeries of Beardsley’s work.


In 2019 the National Leather Association – International created the Erotic Art Awards; the awards include the Aubrey Beardsley Award (for abstract art).