More Aubrey fakery


It’s surprising to find such blatant examples of fraudulence on a major museum website yet here we are with 13 poor attempts at the Beardsley style credited by the Art Institute of Chicago to “Imitator of Aubrey Vincent Beardsley”. Imitators usually sign their work with their own names, not with the name of the artist being imitated, the description required here is “faker”. As Beardsley imitations go, these examples aren’t as clumsy as some of the Nichols fakes; they’re also not as widely disseminated but then Nichols published a book of his attempts. Chicago just happens to be the home of a group of Beardsley’s contemporaries led by Will Bradley who championed the Beardsley style in The Chap-Book. There’s the vague possibility that these drawings may have been the work of a Chap-Book artist (the Art Institute site offers no information) although Bradley himself can be ruled out, he was a much better artist than this.


Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The Aubrey Beardsley archive

2 thoughts on “More Aubrey fakery”

  1. Interesting piece. I’m going to be shamefully honest and admit that about a quarter of the drawings in the Nichols book would have fooled me into fully crediting them as authentic. When you know they are fakes, a few just jump out as somehow “off”, but there is still that troubling (for me) percentage that take me in completely.

    But what a gorgeous cover on that book! Worth owning for that, I think, and I very nearly bought one online a year or so ago; I did NOT know the history of fraud behind it, and the seller certainly did not mention it.

  2. I’ve found that the more familiar you get with Beardsley’s drawings, the more you see all the points that the fakers get wrong. His style is superficially easy to copy but for authenticity you need considerable skill yourself; I speak from experience here. Aubrey leaves you little room to get things absolutely right. He used very fine dip pens with steel nibs, pens which require mastery to handle with his authority. One thing you see in the fakes is that the lines are often shaky or they look too thick. The compositions are also bad in a way that Beardsley’s never were, like the shrunked trees on the Virago paperback.

    That Whistler drawing is actually a good piece, although Beardsley knew Whistler personally, so he would also have known that Whistler was a rather short fellow which lets the fakery down on that score. I think the Nichols book would still be worth buying today. It’s a curious adjunct to Beardsley’s brief career.

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