A Wilde Night

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A couple more pieces from yesterday’s Posters in Miniature. The drawing above is entitled A Wilde Night and credited to Claude Fayette Bragdon (1866–1946) whose design work has appeared here before. Bragdon was an acquaintance of Will Bradley’s, and like Bradley was a man of many talents being variously employed as an architect, writer and stage designer. Bragdon and Bradley both worked together on The Chap-Book, Herbert Stone’s Chicago periodical which commenced publication in 1894, the same year as The Yellow Book, a magazine whose style and light-hearted content Stone and co. seemed keen to emulate. Bragdon’s small drawings for The Chap-Book are less Beardsley-like than Bradley’s designs which is why this very overt homage appears as a surprise.

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Bragdon’s picture is undated but the female figure is taken from Beardsley’s cover for the first issue of The Yellow Book which would place it in around 1894; the satyr-like male is an odd blend of bits of Beardsley’s male and female figures. Aubrey, however, would never have drawn bats like Bragdon’s, or a sleeping policeman…too gauche, my dear. As for the Wildeness, 1894 was only a year away from Oscar’s trial, a time when London was buzzing with scandalous rumours, none of which appear to have reached Chicago.

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Also in Posters in Miniature is this piece by another American, Orlando Giannini (1860–1928), a glass designer and another Chicagoan who worked for a while with Frank Lloyd Wright. This design is dated 1895 and struck me with its radical appearance, so very different from the evolving Art Nouveau styles of the time. Giannini’s work as a glass designer evidently brought a different sensibility to graphic design, one which would have still looked bold and original ten years later.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The illustrators archive
The Oscar Wilde archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Echoes of Aubrey
After Beardsley by Chris James
Illustrating Poe #1: Aubrey Beardsley
Beardsley’s Rape of the Lock
The Savoy magazine
Beardsley at the V&A
Merely fanciful or grotesque
The art of Claude Fayette Bragdon, 1866–1946
Aubrey Beardsley’s musical afterlife
Aubrey by John Selwyn Gilbert
“Weirdsley Daubery”: Beardsley and Punch
Alla Nazimova’s Salomé

Echoes of Aubrey

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More of Aubrey Beardsley’s posthumous influence and more of the delightful collision between the 1890s and the 1960s. Monsieur Thombeau turned up this striking fashion shoot from LIFE magazine for 1967 showing a model posed against one of the Salomé drawings. A couple of days after this was posted, a reader wrote to point me to this list of films featuring Beardsley artwork. Most of those I knew about already but I certainly hadn’t heard of Death Bed: The Bed That Eats (1977), a low-budget horror film about which we’re told:

A large, black, four-poster bed, possessed by a demon, is passed from owner to owner. The demon was a tree, who became a breeze and seemingly fell in love with a woman he blew past. The demon then took human form and conjured up a bed. While he was making love with the woman she died and his eyes bled onto the bed, causing it to become possessed. Those who come into contact with the bed are frequently consumed by it (victims are pulled into what is apparently a large chamber of digestive fluids beneath the sheets). The bed demonstrates a malevolent intelligence as well as some psychokinetic and limited telepathic abilities to manipulate dreams. A running commentary or chorus is supplied by the ghost—if that is the correct word—of an artist (who would appear to be Aubrey Beardsley, though this is never stated directly) trapped behind a painting on the wall.

That’s a posthumous fame Aubrey never would have anticipated. If anyone has seen this, let us know what you thought.

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Carry On Loving (1970).

Absent from the list of films is Ken Russell’s Salome’s Last Dance, which features the Salomé pictures again in its title sequence, and Carry On Loving, one of the dreadful British sex comedies which has an entire scene set in a modish pad decorated with Beardsley prints. Watch the scene in question here, if you must.

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The prints were produced by a London company, Gallery Five, in the late 60s, and their ad shows they were also selling works by Kay Nielsen (seen in the Carry On clip), John Austen, Charles Ricketts, George Barbier, Jessie King and others. Gallery Five did much to popularise Beardsley’s art among people who might otherwise have never noticed his work, and their products turn up in many films and TV dramas of the period. Finally—although it’s by no means the last word on this subject—the V&A has two great Beardsley-derived ads for Elliott Boots by Paul Christodoulou here and here.

Previously on { feuilleton }
After Beardsley by Chris James
Illustrating Poe #1: Aubrey Beardsley
Beardsley’s Rape of the Lock
The Savoy magazine
Beardsley at the V&A
Merely fanciful or grotesque
Aubrey Beardsley’s musical afterlife
Aubrey by John Selwyn Gilbert
“Weirdsley Daubery”: Beardsley and Punch
Alla Nazimova’s Salomé

After Beardsley by Chris James

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I have Greg Jarvis of Flowers of Hell to thank for prompting this discovery. Greg left a comment on an earlier post about Aubrey Beardsley’s influence in the musical world in which he drew my attention to some Flowers of Hell cover art and a video inspired by Beardsley’s Morte Darthur drawings. The video reminded me of a short animated film I’d known about for years but never seen, After Beardsley by Chris James. Sure enough it too is on YouTube, to my great surprise since I swear I’ve searched in vain for this in the past.

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After Beardsley was made in 1981 and my knowledge of the film is a result of its being praised by V&A curator Stephen Calloway. The picture of Aubrey in a hospital bed featured in the 1993 V&A exhibition High Art and Low Life: The Studio and the fin de siècle, and is also the final picture in Calloway’s 1998 biography of the artist. Chris James describes the film thus:

The film After Beardsley attempts to depict today’s world through Beardsley’s eyes and in his drawing style…Beardsley is ‘resurrected’ from his death bed and begins to walk through time to the present. On his journey he witnesses the evolution of the car and of air and sea travel, then climbs a phallic mountain before descending into 20th century New York City. [The] ghost of Aubrey Beardsley explores the urban jungle of New York City where, amongst other things, he sees Bob Dylan as a satyr sitting by an iconic 1959 Chevy, and Lenny Bruce being injected with heroin. He is then beckoned by Patti Smith (as Beardsley’s Messalina) into a hospital room where he finds himself hooked up to life support equipment. His hospital persona shows his ghost the horrors of the present day—overpopulation, pestilence starvation, and death. Via John Lennon, he sees the horrors of a nuclear winter. The premise of the film is that, if Beardsley had been alive today instead of the 1890s, modern medicine would have kept him alive, but that, having had a glimpse of where the world was heading, he may have chosen to die anyway. Written and drawn by Chris James, after Aubrey Beardsley. Music by Ronnie Fowler.

As Beardsley pastiche the drawing is some of the best I’ve seen, it’s easy to see why Calloway would be impressed. The film is split into three parts here, here and here, and Chris James has more animation on his YT channel. I’d be tempted to ask for a better quality copy but for now seeing the film at all is good enough.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Illustrating Poe #1: Aubrey Beardsley
Beardsley’s Rape of the Lock
The Savoy magazine
Beardsley at the V&A
Merely fanciful or grotesque
Aubrey Beardsley’s musical afterlife
Aubrey by John Selwyn Gilbert
“Weirdsley Daubery”: Beardsley and Punch
Alla Nazimova’s Salomé