Aubrey Beardsley and His World


This US TV programme isn’t the greatest quality, and it’s blighted throughout with a large watermark, but it’s a revelatory piece both for Aubrey Beardsley enthusiasts and Oscar Wilde aficionados. Camera Three was a CBS arts show which presented Aubrey Beardsley and His World on 12th March, 1967, as a preview for the Beardsley exhibition which had just opened in New York. This was the same landmark exhibition that made such a splash the year before at the V&A in London, and V&A curator Brian Reade appears in the programme to discuss Beardsley’s importance with host James Macandrew. It’s good to see Reade again (he was also in a later BBC documentary) since his Beardsley monograph is a great favourite of mine; as is typical of the period, he looks and sounds very upper class but his scholarship is always authoritative.

Ordinarily this would be enough to satisfy me, even though the programme only runs for 27 minutes and doesn’t tell me anything about Aubrey that I didn’t know already. The great revelation comes near the end with the appearance of Vyvyan Holland, the younger son of Oscar Wilde. Holland not only admired Beardsley’s work but actually met him in 1895 shortly before the artist’s untimely death. Holland was 9 years old at the time, and was taken to visit Aubrey by his mother; he was 81 in 1967, and died himself later that year so we’re very fortunate that he was captured on tape at all. The programme also includes a short extract from Alla Nazimova’s 1923 film of Salomé, with costumes and decor all based on Beardsley’s drawings. Watch it here.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The Aubrey Beardsley archive

4 thoughts on “Aubrey Beardsley and His World”

  1. Can’t begin to tell you how much I loved Camera Three. It varied week to week — profiles, focus, something else, but nearly always something new and different, at least to me. It was network TV, but full of stuff they’d put nowhere else except the middle of Sunday morning. As they say, they went kind of deep: Off the top of my head: The choreographer Anna Sokolova, something on some experimental filmmaking (of which I remember precious little over the five decades since I saw it), one of Carl Sagan’s first TV appearances, etc., etc., etc. Eclectic; the opposite of today’s feature on mass audience focused pap.
    I was crushed when it was cancelled.
    You’d think with cable and satellite and the web there’d be a replacement or equivalent, but no. Sob!

  2. The BBC used to be the same, especially on BBC 2 which had more arts things than the main channel. The BBC documentary I linked to above is a good example.

  3. The Beeb was much better than here in the states. IIRC, BBC 2’s initial raison d’être was to provide gobs of culture.
    Outside of public broadcasting, in the mid-20th century, literally all we had was Camera Three — a half hour a week, nothing similar from any other network or station. Public broadcasting had more culture, but I’d say Camera Three exposed one to more outer stuff; public broadcasting was pretty mainstream.

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