Beardsley and His Work


Back in 2008 I wrote at some length about Aubrey, an excellent BBC TV dramatisation of the last years of Aubrey Beardsley’s life written by John Selwyn Gilbert, and screened once in 1982. Mr Gilbert himself added a comment to that post in which he mentioned that he’d written and directed a documentary which was screened in tandem with the play, Beardsley and His Work. I have the documentary on tape but it’s a copy of a copy and is also missing ten minutes or so of its opening so it’s good to find that the entire thing is now on YouTube. (Thanks to Dominique for drawing my attention to this.)

Beardsley and His Work is essential viewing for Beardsleyphiles since it’s the only place you’ll see Beardsley scholar Brian Reade—author of the huge monograph, Beardsley (1967)—and Brigid Brophy—author of two excellent studies, Black and White (1968) and Beardsley and His World (1976)—talking at length about the artist. In addition there’s another artist, Ralph Steadman, examining some of Beardsley’s original artwork and discussing the techniques of ink drawing. The fifty-minute film is divided into four chunks, unfortunately, but is otherwise complete:

Part one | part two | part three | part four


Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The Aubrey Beardsley archive

More from the Decadent Dutch


Illustration by Otto Verhagen from Yolanda – Het Boek van Bloei (1931) by Nan Copijn.

Would-be Decadents is perhaps a better label, the Decadent ship having set sail across an absinthe-tinted sea by the time these artists were putting pen to paper. Their drawings are another set of scarce images forwarded by Sander Bink who maintains the Rond1900 site. (See this earlier post for further examples.) Sandor also sent artwork details which I’ve quoted below. In addition to yet more overt Beardsley influence (the Verhagen above and René Gockinga’s woman with a candle) there’s also a striking Harry Clarke influence in the second Gockinga drawing which is closer to Clarke’s idiosyncratic style than (for example) these later drawings by Cardwell Higgins. Seeing one artist borrow the mannerisms of another is a common thing; far less common is finding an artist who adopts different styles the way Gockinga does. Incidentally, the Couperin novel mentioned below was published with a typically elegant cover design by Symbolist artist Jan Toorop.

(Thanks again Sander!)


Otto Verhagen. Illustration (not used as such) for Couperus’ Psyche (1898). Engraving, ca 1913. Collection Sander Bink. This is a personage from the story but to me it looks somewhat like an Oscar Wilde portrait!
Illustration for the very popular fairy tale for adults Psyche by Louis Couperus (1863–1923). You might have heard of Couperus: Oscar Wilde appreciated his decadent, somewhat homosexual, novel Noodlot (1890), translated as Footsteps of fate. Some letters were exchanged. Couperus’ wife Elisabeth translated Dorian Gray in 1893. (First Dutch translation.)


Sortie (1904) by Carel de Nerée tot Babberich. Museum of Modern Art, Arnhem (from De Neree catalogue, 1986). Verhagen’s Dorian Gray seems to be influenced by this.


Woman with candle by René Gockinga, ca 1916. Current location unknown.


Indonesian lady dancing [as I call it—SB] by René Gockinga. From the Indonesian satirical-political periodical De Zweep [The Whip] 1922.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Further echoes of Aubrey
A Wilde Night
Echoes of Aubrey
After Beardsley by Chris James
Illustrating Poe #1: Aubrey Beardsley
The art of Karel de Nerée tot Babberich, 1880–1909
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

Further echoes of Aubrey


Dorian Gray (1924) by Otto Verhagen (1885–1951).

If you need an idea of the colossal impact Aubrey Beardsley’s drawing had on the art world of the 1890s consider that the entirety of his career—from his first public exposure in The Studio in 1893 to his very untimely death in 1898—lasted a mere five years. Decades afterwards artists around the world were still imitating his style. The later disciples are so numerous and so widespread it’s no surprise if some have yet to be fully acknowledged by subsequent generations. Sander Bink who maintains the Rond1900 site sent copies of these drawings (from Lopende Vuurtjes, Verloren Publishers, 2012) and provided some information about the artists:

Verhagen was a government official for most of his life and seems to have led a very respected life and made his Beardsley-esque work privately, no expositions as far is I know. Gockinga appears to have led a more interesting life: born in Indonesia, lived in Holland 1908–1922, the Indonesia (Java) again, then New York, and the Indonesia and after wwii Amsterdam, probably homosexual. Had one exposition of his work in 1917.

Sander’s site has further examples of Verhagen’s drawings, and he says that both artists were probably inspired by Carel (or Karel) de Nerée, some of whose work was featured here a while back. Always good to have the dots joined. Verhagen’s Dorian Gray is a curious piece; in style it’s a little like the angular drawings that Beresford Egan was producing in the 1920s, while the subject can’t be Dorian himself unless it’s a rendering of his aged portrait. As for Gockinga’s drawing, it’s a lot more faithful to Beardsley’s early style (complete with phallic extrusions) than the poor Nichols fakes that appeared in 1919. If you want a successful forgery it’s always best to find someone with talent.

(Thanks Sander!)


Old lady with ghost (c.1916) by René Gockinga (1893–1962).

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

The art of Karel de Nerée tot Babberich, 1880–1909


Judith (no date).

Another Decadent type who died young, de Nerée was a Dutch artist and illustrator whose work in these pictures owes a great deal to Aubrey Beardsley. As Beardsley-influenced pieces go they’re rather crude, although it’s unfair to be too judgemental since there’s so little of his work available to see online. Following yesterday’s post, it’s inevitable that he produced a Salomé picture of his own but there’s no sign of that, the curiously space-age (or alien) Judith above is the closest you’ll get.


Introduction to Extaze (1900-01).

On the strength of these drawings I’d probably have de Nerée down as a post-Beardsley pasticheur similar to Alastair (aka Hans Henning Voigt) but there’s another side to his output evident in his painted works which show a far more assured Symbolist style, with a figurative approach closer to another Dutch artist of the period, Jan Toorop. It’s a shame the photos there are little more than snapshots, I’d like to see more of these. The Wikipedia article has a couple more drawings, and there’s another Beardsley-esque piece here.


La musique (1904).

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The illustrator’s archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
More decorated books from the Netherlands