Aubrey Beardsley, Self-portrait, a pen and ink wash

England, around AD 1892

The image of decadence

Aubrey Beardsley (1872-98) was the most original genius of British art in the 1890s. His talent for drawing enabled him to escape a hated job as a clerk in an insurance company, and in his short career, before his early death from consumption, he became internationally famous for his illustrations which pushed against the limits of fin-de-siècle decadence. He drew in pen and ink, and his designs were produced as line-blocks, using the newly available process of photomechanical reproduction.

Beardsley's style is an entirely original blend of English Pre-Raphaelitism (especially Burne-Jones' style), French Rococo engravings and Japonisme. This is an early drawing and was reproduced for the first time in an album of designs published in 1899, the year after his death in France. It was presented to The British Museum by Robert Ross, a close friend of both Oscar Wilde and Aubrey Beardsley, of whom he wrote one of the first biographies.

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More information


L.G. Zatlin, Aubrey Beardsley and Victorian (Oxford, Clarendon, 1990)

B. Reade, Aubrey Beardsley (London, Studio Vista, 1967)


Height: 252.000 mm
Width: 95.000 mm

Museum number

PD 1906-4-23-1


Gift of Robert Ross


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