The Parade and Baron Verdigris

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Design by Paul Woodroffe.

The Parade, subtitled An Illustrated Gift Book for Boys and Girls, is something that children with wealthy parents or relatives might have received as a Christmas present in December 1897. The contents are an unusual mix of fairy tales, frivolous seasonal fare—A Christmas Mummery, complete with songs and music—and adventure stories set in other parts of the world. The collection was edited by Gleeson White, an art critic whose former position as editor of The Studio magazine explains the very Studio-friendly choice of illustrators.

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The design on the title page is a curious piece by Aubrey Beardsley, one with less authority than the most of the other drawings he was producing in his penultimate year. Those dots filling out the arabesque plant forms are the kinds of things that amateurs do when they’re uncertain about whether or not to decorate a design. The tendril which terminates in a tasselled confection is, however, a typical example of the artist’s bizarre invention, the kind of caprice that used to infuriate the critics who disliked his work. Beardsley’s career had been launched four years earlier with a profile in The Studio, but by 1897 he was often struggling for money after being fired from The Yellow Book in the wake of the Oscar Wilde scandal. Gleeson White is to be commended for supporting him at a time when many others refused to do so.

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L. Leslie Brooke.

Elsewhere in The Parade there are contributions both written and pictorial from Beardsley’s friend, Max Beerbohm; also a story by Richard Burton, a writer you wouldn’t usually expect to find in a book aimed at children. The list of illustrators includes Charles Robinson, Laurence Housman and Manchester’s own Alfred Garth Jones. Beardsley didn’t draw anything else for The Parade but he’s mentioned again in a list of titles advertised in the book’s final pages as having provided a frontispiece for Baron Verdigris, “A Romance of the Reversed Direction” by one Jocelyn Quilp. The title was unfamiliar, and I wasn’t sure at first whether I’d seen the illustration, but the drawing shown below appears in two of my Beardsley books—albeit at small sizes—including the copious Brian Reade collection from 1967.

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“Baron Verdigris” sounds like a minor character from Michael Moorcock’s Dancers at the End of Time trilogy, while the improbable “Jocelyn Quilp” turns out to be a nom de plume of Halliwell Sutcliffe whose book is described as a “singular novella, a curious amalgam of parodies based on a time-travelling theme“; shades of the Dancers again. It’s tempting to think that this may be the sole example of Aubrey Beardsley illustrating science fiction (or something like it)—the book is generic enough to be listed at ISFDB—but Brian Reade describes the story as “pseudo-mediaeval and facetious”, “dedicated to ‘Fin-de-Siécle-ism, the Sensational Novel, and the Conventional Drawing-Room Ballad'”. That does at least explain the peculiarities of the drawing. Maybe the Moorcock comparison is an apt one after all.

More illustrations from The Parade:

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Charles Robinson.

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Léon V. Solon.

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More Aubrey fakery

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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.

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Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The Aubrey Beardsley archive

The Poster: An Illustrated Monthly Chronicle

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Art by Mosnar Yendis.

This is the kind of thing I love to find: five volumes of a British magazine devoted to poster artists and their creations being published at a time—1898 to 1900—when the Art Nouveau style was spreading its convolvulus-like tendrils across Europe. Poster art is a predominantly commercial medium which means the articles are more concerned with the mechanics of the business than you’d find in a rival publication such as The Studio. Artists (male and female) are interviewed, trends are analysed, there are at least two features examining what the magazine calls “cribbing” (or one poster swiping from another), also a profile of the “Aerograph”, an early model of that fixture of 20th-century illustration, the airbrush. And when it comes to illustration, The Poster is as much concerned with the practice as with the posters themselves when so many of the people featured were also illustrating books or magazines. The publishers’ admiration of Aubrey Beardsley’s work is shown in the amount of mentions he receives as well as the articles they run. Beardsley had died a few months before the magazine was launched but his influence and reputation was firmly established by this time.

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All five volumes of The Poster contain a wealth of pictorial material so, with the exception of the Sidney Sime drawing, the examples shown here are from the first volume alone. Below you’ll find two illustrations by Charles Robinson pastiching the Beardsley style which the magazine claims are the best imitations they’ve seen, a debatable opinion but I hadn’t seen the drawings before. The first volume also includes an interview with illustrator John Hassall, a name that few people today would recognise, while those that do may confuse him with similarly-named musicians. Hassall’s work is still known to many Britons, however, via his “Jolly Fisherman“, a poster for the Great Northern Railway promoting the seaside resort of Skegness. The Cinderella picture below is one of many Hassall pieces in the magazine.

The Poster, Volume 1
The Poster, Volume 2
The Poster, Volume 3
The Poster, Volume 4
The Poster, Volume 5

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Weekend links 661

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Zephyr (1970), a blacklight poster by Jupiter Rubin. Via.

• I wouldn’t usually expect Clark Ashton Smith’s Zothique to be mentioned at Literary Hub for any reason, but there it is. Emily Temple recommends some of the best stories from a century of Weird Tales that you can read online.

• Mixes of the week: A mix for The Wire by Gamut Inc, and The Last of Us, “a non-stop mix of ambient soundscapes, experimental electronics and modern classical music”.

• “…Yaggy believed that wonder was the helpmate of learning.” Sasha Archibald on Levi Walter Yaggy’s Geographical Maps and Charts (1887/93).

Stylistically, Beardsley’s pictures for Salome are among his most derivative and original. In the sharpness of their lines and great swaths of black and white, we see the well-documented influences of Japanese woodcuts and Ancient Greek vase-painting. And yet, Beardsley’s work bridges these grand traditions of East and West with such fresh dynamism and taboo as to be undeniably, and ultimately definitionally, Nouveau.

Mirror and Window Both: The Brief Superabundance of Aubrey Beardsley by A. Natasha Joukovsky

• New music: Rhinog Fawr by Somatic Responses, and Sargo/Posidonia by Sleep Research Facility/Llyn Y Cwn.

• “Why is there such a voracious consumer appetite for miniature things?” asks Steven Heller.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Spotlight on…Julio Cortázar Blow Up and other Stories (1967).

• At Unquiet Things: The Prolific Pioneering Pulp Art Of Ed Emshwiller.

Random images from DJ Food’s desktop.

Miniature Sun (1989) by XTC | Adventures In A Miniature Landscape (2009) by Belbury Poly | Miniature Magic (2020) by Plone

Covers for The Double-Dealer

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The Double-Dealer was a literary magazine “published at New Orleans” from 1921 to 1926 whose covers for the first two years of its run wouldn’t have been out of place twenty years earlier. In its written content the magazine wasn’t a throwback to the fin de siècle but was flying the flag for Modernism, an editorial stance that might seem at odds with the Beardsley-like cover art, at least until you notice the names of some of the contributors. Essayist and poet Arthur Symons had been a friend of Aubrey Beardsley’s in the 1890s, and the pair worked together on their own magazine, The Savoy, as editor and art editor respectively. Another contributor, Djuna Barnes, was a thoroughgoing Modernist in her writing but she was also an occasional artist who produced a number of drawings in a Beardsley-like style.

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The covers of The Double-Dealer up to June 1922 were the work of Olive Leonhardt who doesn’t seem to have produced anything else in this manner. The magazine is notable today for having published early writings by William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway but the first few issues also include contributions from Lafcadio Hearn, Lord Dunsany and James Branch Cabell. A press ad declared that “rebels and reactionaries rub shoulders” in the pages of the magazine, so maybe Leonhardt’s covers were a further example of editorial equanimity. Or maybe this type of art was more suited to New Orleans than New York City. The cover for July 1922 by Gordon Ertz continues in the Leonhardt manner, after which the magazine adopted the sober presentation common to literary magazines of the period, with a simple design based on a Janus-headed Roman coin.

Update: Added a credit for Gordon Ertz.

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