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.


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A Wilde Night


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.


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.


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.

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The illustrators archive
The Oscar Wilde archive

Illustrating Poe #1: Aubrey Beardsley


The Black Cat.

Halloween approaches, as if you needed reminding. In honour of that event it’s Poe Week here at {feuilleton}, and we’ll be skating through some favourite depictions of stories and poems by the Boston genius.

Aubrey Beardsley’s four Poe illustrations were commissioned by Herbert S. Stone and Company, Chicago, in 1894 as embellishment for a multi-volume collection of the author’s works. The Black Cat is justifiably the most reproduced of these. The other drawings are fine in themselves but not very successful illustrations of Poe’s tales. Aubrey wasn’t really suited to this kind of horror atmosphere; looking at his ear-ringed orangutan and the spotless furnishings surrounding it you’d never guess the scene of murderous simian frenzy which lies at the heart of the story.


The Murders in the Rue Morgue.

Herbert Stone’s company had begun publishing The Chap-Book in the same year, a witty American equivalent of British periodicals like The Yellow Book, and Beardsley’s work was featured in the early issues. Looking through some of these at the Internet Archive I was surprised to see the following illustration in a short appraisal of Beardsley’s art. If this is by the artist, as the credit implies, it’s a drawing I haven’t seen in any books of his work. If anyone can confirm this is a genuine Aubrey then please leave a comment. The other Poe illustrations follow.


From The Chap-Book, May 15th, 1894.
Continue reading “Illustrating Poe #1: Aubrey Beardsley”

The art of Claude Fayette Bragdon, 1866–1946


The Juggler Sun (1895).

On the shortest day of the year it seems fitting to post a picture of the sun and hope that in 2009 the clouds clear long enough for us Brits to see more than a month of it. Claude Fayette Bragdon’s poster is a remarkably stylised work for 1895 and might easily have been produced twenty or more years later. The Chap-Book was a periodical which included Bragdon among its illustrators although none of the cover designs to be found online are this striking. Bragdon wasn’t only an illustrator, however.

A man of many talents, Claude Fayette Bragdon (1866–1946) was an architect, artist, writer, philosopher, and stage designer. Bragdon’s work in these varied fields interrelated and overlapped, tied together by his theosophical belief in creating and communicating beauty. After a successful career as an architect in Rochester, NY, Bragdon entered the world of stage design in 1919, at the age of 53, by consenting to design a traveling production of Hamlet for actor-producer and personal friend Walter Hampden. Bragdon’s arrival in the world of theater came at a time when significant changes in staging techniques were on the horizon. (More.)

I usually celebrate polymathy but in Bragdon’s case his varied interests seem to have deprived us of more work by a unique illustrative talent. The indispensable VTS has further examples of his clean style from a 1915 treatise on architecture and design, Projective Ornament. It was increasingly common during this period to regard ornamentation in architecture as a 19th century evil to be purged from all future buildings, a concept expressed most notoriously by Adolf Loos in his 1908 essay, Ornament and Crime. Bragdon engaged with the argument by proposing that architects put aside historical and natural pastiche and look to geometry for a new style of decoration. His illustrations in Projective Ornament are beautifully done and some (like the one below) might almost be the work of an Art Deco illustrator such as George Barbier.


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Previously on { feuilleton }
The Decorative Age
Images of Nijinsky