Aubrey Beardsley, Head Cradled by Hands

Aubrey Beardsley, Head Cradled by Hands

Aubrey Beardsley 1872-1898 by Frederick H. Evans 1853-1943

From the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York:

A major figure in British Pictorialism and a driving force of its influential society The Linked Ring, Frederick Evans is best known for his moving interpretations of medieval cathedrals rendered with unmatched subtlety in platinum prints. Until 1898, Evans owned a bookshop in London where, according to George Bernard Shaw, he was the ideal bookseller, chatting his customers into buying what he thought was right for them. In 1889, Evans befriended the seventeen-year-old Aubrey Beardsley, a clerk in an insurance company who, too poor to make purchases, browsed in the bookshop during lunch hours. Eventually, Evans recommended Beardsley to the publisher John M. Dent as the illustrator for a new edition of Thomas Malory’s “Le Morte d’Arthur.” It was to be Beardsley’s first commission and the beginning of his meteoric rise to fame.

Evans probably made these two portraits of Beardsley (1872-1898) in 1894, at the time the young artist was achieving notoriety for his scandalous illustrations of Oscar Wilde’s “Salomé” and “The Yellow Book,” two publications that captured the irreverent, decadent mood of the European fin de siècle. A lanky, stooped youth who suffered from tuberculosis and would die of the disease at the age of twenty-five, Beardsley, conscious of his awkward physique, cultivated the image of the dandy. Evans is reported to have spent hours studying Beardsley, wondering how best to approach his subject, when the artist, growing tired, finally relaxed into more natural poses. In the platinum print on the left, Evans captured the inward-looking artist lost in the contemplation of his imaginary world, his beaked profile cupped in the long fingers of his sensitive hands. In contrast, in the photogravure on the right, Beardsley peers out from under his smoothly combed fringe as if scrutinizing himself in an unseen mirror.

Published: Frontis portrait: The Early Work of Aubrey Beardsley, 1899 Edited with Introduction by H.C. Marillier, John Lane the Bodley Head, London & New York

Aubrey Beardsley, Head Cradled by Hands

Image Dimensions13.1 x 9.8 cm shown cropped to platemark 17.5 x 12.5 cm

Support Dimensions28.2 x 21.6 cm

Print Notes

One of 120 copies printed on Japanese Vellum; Facsimile signature.


Philadelphia bookseller, purchased March, 2023