Aubrey Beardsley photographed by Frederick Evans (1894).
I’ve been going through the Coulthart VHS library recently, transferring to DVD recordings which can’t be purchased or found online. Among these is a drama from the BBC’s Playhouse strand, Aubrey by John Selwyn Gilbert, broadcast in 1982. This follows the life of artist Aubrey Beardsley from the time of Oscar Wilde’s arrest in April 1895—which event resulted in Beardsley losing his position at The Yellow Book—through the foundation of The Savoy magazine, to his tubercular death in March 1898.
John Dicks as Aubrey.
Playhouse was a BBC 2 equivalent of Play for Today (which usually ran on BBC 1) and Aubrey like many other dramas of the period was shot on video in the studio. This was done for convenience as well as being cheaper than shooting on film, since scenes could be filmed using several cameras simultaneously. The drawback is that the image looks very harsh, and historical works such as this often seem unreal and artificial as a result. That aside, this was an excellent production with some great performances, especially Ronald Lacey as Leonard Smithers and Rula Lenska as Aubrey’s sister, Mabel. The details of Beardsley’s life are very accurate, down to his beloved Mantegna prints on the walls, and many of the scenes are arranged to correspond with his drawings, the production design being largely monochrome.