AUBREY BEARDSLEY, English illustrator and author, died (b: 1872): Aubrey Beardsley was the most controversial artist of the Art Nouveau era, renowned for his dark and perverse images and the grotesque erotica, which were the main themes of his later work. Some of his drawings, inspired by Japanese shunga, featured enormous genitalia. His most famous erotic illustrations were on themes of history and mythology, including his illustrations for Aristophanes’ Lysistrata and Oscar Wilde’s Salome.
Beardsley was a public character as well as a private eccentric. He said, “I have one aim—the grotesque. If I am not grotesque I am nothing.” Wilde said he had “a face like a silver hatchet, and grass green hair.” Beardsley was meticulous about his attire: dove-grey suits, hats, ties; yellow gloves. He would appear at his publisher’s in a morning coat and patent leather pumps.
Although Beardsley was aligned with the Gay clique that included Oscar Wilde and other English aesthetes, the details of his sexuality remain in question. He was generally regarded as asexual—which is hardly surprising, considering his chronic illness and his devotion to his work. Speculation about his sexuality include rumors of an incestuous relationship with his elder sister, Mabel, who may have become pregnant by her brother and miscarried.
In December 1896, Beardsley suffered a violent hemorrhage, leaving him in precarious health. By April 1897, a month after his conversion to Roman Catholicism, his deteriorating health prompted a move to the French Riviera. There he died a year later, on March 16, 1898, of tuberculosis at the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Menton, France, attended by his mother and sister. He was 25 years old.