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Fancy & Imagination BE AR DS LEY AN D TH E BOOK I LLUS TRATOR S

T H E S TA N LEY & AU D REY B U RTO N G A LLERY


Fancy & Imagination BE AR DS LEY AN D TH E BOOK I LLUS TRATOR S

T H E S TA N LEY & AU D REY B U RTO N G A LLERY


First published in 2010 to coincide with the exhibition Fancy & Imagination: Beardsley and the Book Illustrators, 16 November 2010 –12 February 2011

Contents

© The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery, except where otherwise stated ISBN-13 978-1-874331-43-8 EAN 9781874331438 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electrical, mechanical or otherwise, without first seeking the permission of the copyright owners and of the publishers. The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery University of Leeds Parkinson Building Woodhouse Lane Leeds LS2 9JT Designed by FDA Design Photography by Norman Taylor Printed by Corners Direct Ltd

COVER ILLUSTRATIONS FRONT :

Aubrey Beardsley, prospectus cover design for The Yellow Book, Vol V, April 1895. University of Leeds Special Collections, The Fay and Geoff rey Elliott Collection BACK : Walter Crane (1845-1915), illustration for The Story of the Glittering Plain by William Morris, pen, ink and watercolour, 1894. University of Leeds Brotherton Collection FRONTISPIECE :

Aubrey Beardsley, A Footnote, illustration in The Savoy, No 2, April 1896. University of Leeds Brotherton Collection CONTENTS :

Aubrey Beardsley, The Pierrot of the Minute, 1897, proof copy from the Leonard Smithers Collection. University of Leeds Special Collections, The Fay and Geoff rey Elliott Collection

Introduction

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Aubrey Beardsley at the University of Leeds by Chris Sheppard

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Printers, Presses and Processes: The Book as a Whole 1890 –1900 by Paul Whittle The Book Illustrators by Layla Bloom

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Introduction HE STANLEY AND AUDREY BURTON GALLERY benefits enormously from its close relationship with Leeds University Library’s Special Collections. The rare books, manuscripts and other treasures of Special Collections often play a role in the Gallery’s exhibitions. This catalogue, published to coincide with the exhibition ‘Fancy & Imagination: Beardsley and the Book Illustrators’ at the Gallery and the display ‘Printers, Presses and Processes: The Book as a Whole 1890–1900’ in Special Collections, celebrates the connection between these collections, through the common medium of book illustration. ∂ Book illustration has a long and engaging story, one which could be told with a variety of unique items from Special Collections, from its illuminated medieval manuscripts to contemporary artists’ books. This catalogue focuses, however, on a particularly vibrant time for book illustration in Britain, from the 1890s to the 1920s. One of the greatest illustrators of that era, Aubrey Beardsley, is well represented in the collection, particularly as a result of a remarkable donation by Fay and Geoffrey Elliott to the University in 2001, enhanced by many further generous gifts. In order to convey a fuller picture of the era in the exhibition, the Gallery is also grateful to have had the support of private lenders, who have contributed original book illustrations by Beardsley’s contemporaries and his followers. ∂ The exhibition and display represent only a selection of artists of the period, and do not purport to be comprehensive; however, the Gallery intends this to be the first in an occasional series of exhibitions exploring the history of book illustration. This will continue to highlight the Gallery’s connection with Special Collections, as well as demonstrating its commitment to bring to the public eye the richness and variety of the collections held at the University of Leeds. n

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Aubrey Beardsley, The Achieving of the Sangreal, from Le Morte Darthur, 1893-4, proof copy from the Leonard Smithers Collection. University of Leeds Special Collections, The Fay and Geoffrey Elliott Collection OPPOSITE

Harry Clarke (18891931), Tailpiece to The Fairytales of Charles Perrault, pen and ink and gold leaf on paper, 1922. Private collection BELOW

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Aubrey Beardsley at the University of Leeds by Chris Sheppard ONSIDER THIS YOUNG MAN. After a successful school career, enjoying his unusual aptitude for drawing, he spends about three formative years studying and practising art. His family circumstances mean that he must help to pay his way, so he combines the pursuit of an artistic education with uncongenial paid work. He keeps in touch with family and school friends, but makes new contacts, and he experiments with his public persona, how he dresses and presents himself. He has his heroes and even meets some who encourage his artistic aspirations. Then, unexpectedly, he has the means to spend a year engaged in more intensive pursuit of his main interest in art, enabling him to understand the nature of his talents and develop them. He becomes impatient with the working constraints implicit in this period of apprenticeship, but he sees it through and the experience prepares him for the next three years. In this last phase, he truly finds himself. He networks with like-minded contemporaries, he publishes widely, and his reputation rapidly grows. His innovative work attracts both admirers and critics, who are equally aware that a major figure in his chosen field is emerging. By the age of twenty-five, promise has become achievement and promises much more. ∂ In bare outline, this is a profile of Aubrey Beardsley at the end of the nineteenth century. It is also recognisably the profile of a twenty-first century student, progressing with increasing self-assurance and accomplishment from school to first degree, then to a Masters, and on to an impressive PhD. An exceptionally able and ambitious student, perhaps, but not so atypical. ∂ Awareness of this parallel is valuable in the context of a university. It is instructive and inspiring, particularly for a student, to realise that if the past is another country, it is populated by individuals who, however distinctive their legacy may be, are not altogether unlike us today. We can understand them better by appreciating similarities and be encouraged by affinity. ∂ Most of the items illustrating Beardsley’s work in the present exhibition are drawn from the Fay and Geoffrey Elliott Collection, an extraordinarily generous benefaction to Leeds University Library made in 2001. One of

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Aubrey Beardsley, How Sir Tristram Drank of the Love Drink, from Le Morte Darthur, 1893-4, proof copy from the Leonard Smithers Collection. University of Leeds Special Collections, The Fay and Geoffrey Elliott Collection OPPOSITE

Aubrey Beardsley, Chapter-heading from Le Morte Darthur, 1893-4, proof copy from the Leonard Smithers Collection. University of Leeds Special Collections, The Fay and Geoffrey Elliott Collection LEFT

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to the fact that both were written as their authors’ second substantial works when they were about twenty-seven, no older than many postgraduates of today. The current student may be intrigued by another remarkable item, the passport issued to Kim Philby when he had just turned twenty-one, recording his unobtrusive movements around Europe over the next five years while learning his trade as a Soviet spy. Though singularly unappealing as a role model, he confirms that one can start to change the world in one’s early twenties. ∂ Beardsley was born in 1872. After leaving school in 1888, his equivalent of a first degree was to study and practice art while supporting himself

Aubrey Beardsley, cover design for Le Morte Darthur by Sir Thomas Malory, 1893-4. University of Leeds Special Collections, The Fay and Geoffrey Elliott Collection RIGHT

the most important motives for this gift was Fay and Geoffrey’s wish that their outstanding collection of manuscripts and printed works should become available for direct use by a substantial body of young people. For some thirty years before, their growing personal Collection had been made accessible to established scholars and items had been lent for major public exhibitions, but, following the millennium, Fay and Geoffrey decided that the Collection would have still greater educative and inspirational purpose if permanently located in the library of one the UK’s very largest universities, Leeds. ∂ Displaying Fay and Geoffrey’s Beardsley materials in the Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery serves as a public way of encouraging students to investigate the riches of the Collection in the Library’s Special Collections for themselves. There, for example, they can see the Collection’s two most prestigious manuscripts, those of Oscar Wilde’s play The Duchess of Padua and of Evelyn Waugh’s novel Vile Bodies, and their attention can be drawn

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WJ Hawker, photograph of Aubrey Beardsley, Bournemouth, 1897. University of Leeds Special Collections, The Fay and Geoffrey Elliott Collection LEFT

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Aubrey Beardsley, proof copy grotesque from the Bon-Mots series, 1893. University of Leeds Special Collections, The Fay and Geoffrey Elliott Collection RIGHT

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as a clerk. Reversing the modern custom of a student studying by day and taking paid employment in the evenings and at weekends, Beardsley clerked during the day and absorbed himself in art through long candlelit evenings. The greatest encouragement he received was not from an academic but from the artist and illustrator Edward Burne-Jones, who was some forty years his senior. Backed up by his sister Mabel, Beardsley dared to visit the great man in 1891, only to be turned away by the housekeeper. Burne-Jones spotted the retreating couple from an upstairs window and, entranced by Mabel’s spectacular red hair, he invited them in, was deeply impressed by the contents of Beardsley’s portfolio and urged him to take classes at the Westminster School of Art. ∂ Another to recognise Beardsley’s exceptional promise at this time was the bookseller Frederick Evans. Beardsley frequented Evans’s bookshop, browsing not buying: his academic library, in effect. Having got to know the young visitor and his work, Evans used his publishing contacts to help find him occasional opportunities to illustrate books. This soared to another level in 1892, when Evans warmly recommended Beardsley to the publisher JM Dent, who was seeking a new young artist to illustrate a massive edition of Mallory’s Morte Darthur in neo-Kelmscott medieval style. Beardsley got the commission which enabled him to leave his clerical employment and, as it were, begin his MA. ∂ Dent’s plan was to issue the Morte Darthur in monthly parts over a year, maximising the potential audience by including many illustrations reproduced by the new process of photo-engraving, which simulated wood-block engravings at a fraction of the price. The method meant that Beardsley had to work in black and white without shading or colour and thus necessity led him to develop and refine his most characteristic style. As the project progressed and became repetitive, Dent found Beardsley other work to give him some diversion. He was able to illustrate Dent’s Bon Mots volumes, a series of anthologies, with a variety of small grotesque line drawings, totally different from the Arthurian images. ∂ After this period of apprenticeship, Beardsley flourished. By 1893, he could write to a school friend, with truth as well as bravado, ‘I have seven distinct styles and have won success in all of them’. He graduated in this

Aubrey Beardsley, cover design for The Yellow Book, Vol I, April 1894. University of Leeds Brotherton Collection LEFT

year to making contributions to the newly-established art magazine The Studio, also designing covers for the publisher John Lane’s Keynotes series of contemporary novels. In 1894, he added a degree of notoriety to his reputation when he illustrated Oscar Wilde’s Salome for Lane and his partner Elkin Mathews. ∂ Beardsley’s uncommon skill, versatility and imagination were now so apparent that when in 1895 he and the young American novelist Henry Harland proposed to co-edit a new magazine The Yellow Book, Lane and Mathews were eager to invest in its production. The Yellow Book was a brilliant conception, a magazine published as substantial volumes in which the work of well-established writers and artists such as Henry James and Sir Frederick Leighton appeared together with that of the avant garde such as WB Yeats, who had not turned thirty, Max Beerbohm and

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Having lost his main source of income, Beardsley’s position was retrieved by involvement with a new magazine of literature, art and criticism The Savoy, a collaboration with Arthur Symons, published by the disreputable Yorkshireman Leonard Smithers. The Savoy took on the spirit of The Yellow Book, Beardsley’s most significant contribution proving to be his set of illustrations for Pope’s The Rape of the Lock. Smithers also commissioned Beardsley’s erotic illustrations for Lysistrata and his illustrations for Volpone – all these images signalling new directions in Beardsley’s work. ∂ Most of the individual Beardsley illustrations displayed in the present exhibition are proofs from the original personal collection of Smithers himself. Though Smithers had largely made his living in the sleazier corners

Aubrey Beardsley, The Driving of Cupid from the Garden (cover design for The Savoy, No 3, July 1896), line block print, proof from the Leonard Smithers Collection. University of Leeds Special Collections, The Fay and Geoffrey Elliott Collection RIGHT

Beardsley himself. The magnificent enterprise was visually defined by the magazine’s simple, striking yet subtle cover designs by Beardsley and has come to define an age. ∂ The fall of Wilde in 1895 occasioned Beardsley’s first professional reverse. He was not close to Wilde, who was irritated by the young artist’s success, even jealous; Beardsley poked fun at him in caricature and did not share the preferences that led to Wilde’s downfall. Nevertheless, the two were linked together by a common aura of decadence in popular perception and in the perception of others who should have known better. Alice Meynell and William Watson, two of Lane’s more valuable established authors, both of whom had actually contributed to The Yellow Book, threatened to take their services elsewhere if Beardsley was not dismissed from the magazine. Lane gave way, to his discredit and Beardsley’s bitter indignation. ∂ 12

Aubrey Beardsley, Lysistrata Haranguing the Athenian Women, line block print, 1896. University of Leeds Special Collections, The Fay and Geoffrey Elliott Collection LEFT

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of publication, including outright pornography, his disregard for the niceties of publishing led him to champion Beardsley, Wilde and others when more conventional, timid publishers had abandoned them. One might imagine Smithers as a calculating, middle-aged roué, but in fact he was in his early thirties when he rescued Beardsley and only forty-six when he died, reduced to poverty, over a decade later. ∂ It is not entirely fanciful to regard Beardsley’s enterprises from 1893 to 1898 – work successively for The Studio, The Yellow Book and The Savoy while illustrating a series of individual books which presented him with self-made artistic challenges – as chapters in a thesis. He broke new ground, he worked with rigour, and he showed what he was capable of doing.

Aubrey Beardsley, Volpone Adoring His Treasure (Frontispiece for Volpone), proof from the Leonard Smithers Collection, 1898. University of Leeds Special Collections, The Fay and Geoff rey Elliott Collection RIGHT

Aubrey Beardsley, Arbuscula, proof copy from the Leonard Smithers Collection, 1898. University of Leeds Special Collections, The Fay and Geoff rey Elliott Collection

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Maturity lay ahead. But then, in 1898, having lived in the shadow of tuberculosis since childhood, Beardsley died. ∂ The two unique and most evocative works by Beardsley in the Fay and Geoff rey Elliott Collection, seen in the present exhibition, are original drawings dating from the beginning and end of this brief career. In the context of Beardsley’s more familiar work, both drawings may seem out of character, but nobody truly acts out of character – it is just that character is richer and more complicated than one might at first suppose. ∂ The earlier is a sketch in a letter of 1892 to his school friend George Scotson-Clark in which he writes excitedly of being advised by BurneJones and starting work on Morte Darthur. The sketch shows Beardsley himself as a stick-man striding up the dark side of a mountain on the other side of which is the sunny destination ‘Art’. Playful as this is, the artist has no doubt about his destiny. ∂ 14

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Autograph letter from Aubrey Beardsley to George Scotson-Clark, 1892. University of Leeds Special Collections, The Fay and Geoffrey Elliott Collection BELOW

Aubrey Beardsley, ‘La dame aux camélias’, drawing executed on a preliminary blank leaf of La dame aux camélias by Alexandre Dumas, 1897, University of Leeds Special Collections, The Fay and Geoffrey Elliott Collection BELOW RIGHT

Aubrey Beardsley, Venus between Terminal Gods, proof copy from the Leonard Smithers Collection, 1896, University of Leeds Special Collections, The Fay and Geoffrey Elliott Collection OPPOSITE

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The later drawing is entitled ‘La dame aux camélias’, executed on a preliminary blank leaf of La dame aux camélias by Alexandre Dumas fils. The novel has a presentation inscription to Beardsley from Dumas, dated 13 July 1895, written some four months before the aging author’s death. The book, with its romantic heroine who also suffered from consumption, had naturally had a special significance for Beardsley since his teens and when in France, accompanied by Arthur Symons, he contrived to visit Dumas at his home in Puy. The artist and the novelist, who normally had no time for visitors, achieved a remarkable rapport resulting in the gift. Beardsley’s tender drawing, in soft pencil with camellias highlighted in pink watercolour, was added in 1897. The volume is said to have been amongst his most treasured possessions and arguably these two contrasting drawings in the Fay and Geoffrey Elliott Collection are amongst the most intensely personal and evocative of all the artist’s creations. ∂ Beardsley did not have the brilliant future to which our most successful students can aspire. We can only wonder what he would have achieved if, as well he might with modern medical treatment, he had lived on into the 1950s. n

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Printers, Presses and Processes: The Book as a Whole 1890 –1900 by Paul Whittle ‘The aim of the book decorators, as in the case of the best printers, was to produce designs which should not be beautiful merely in themselves but beautiful in their relationship to the whole of the book – both from the point of view of appearance and idea.’ Holbrook Jackson, The 1890s

OWARDS THE CLOSE of the nineteenth century, the perception that standards of book production were in decline was prevalent, a notion that led to a revived interest in fine printing during the 1890s, spearheaded by William Morris. He contributed to a concerted movement dedicated to raising standards and integrating all aspects of design. This eventually resulted in the establishment of many new private presses, a rash of new journals and periodicals dedicated to the fine arts and literature, and a set of illustrators taking advantage of a renewed interest in book design, which, coupled with technological advancements, produced distinctive and ambitious work that has stood the test of time. ∂ Whilst the work of Aubrey Beardsley is synonymous with the era, as the primary representative of the decadent 1 trends in art and literature, the influence of the Arts and Crafts movement can also be seen clearly in the books and illustrations produced in this decade. Where Beardsley is associated with the modern, William Morris embraced tradition; indeed, he acknowledged that his own methods could be seen as deliberately out of step with prevailing trends. In founding the Kelmscott Press in 1891, Morris responded to the mass-production and mechanization of contemporary book-production by upholding the values of craftsmanship and beauty. Espousing the revival of traditional methods of printing, he was committed to a vision of the book where binding, design, type-setting, and illustration were each integral to the whole. To this end, with control over

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William Morris (1834-1896), illustration for the Prologue to The Canterbury Tales, from The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, 1896. University of Leeds Brotherton Collection OPPOSITE

Ashdene Press illustration caption required LEFT

Decadent was a term applied to a late nineteenth century artistic and literary movement, which had its origins in France during the 1880s, and was then adopted in Britain. Broadly speaking, it valued the artificial over the natural (in contrast to the earlier Romantics) and was widely regarded as subversive. Beardsley and Wilde are strongly associated with the term and the movement. 1

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throughout the 1890s; prior to starting the Vale Press, Ricketts and his partner, fellow artist Charles Shannon, had brought the same commitment to aesthetics and overall production to The Dial. Other publications such as The Savoy and The Yellow Book were as representative of modern fashions as any single work of literature, with contributions from notable figures of the time, including Beardsley, Beerbohm, and Yeats. ∂ By the 1890s most of the technical advances of lasting importance had been made in picture printing, yet Morris chose to embrace traditional forms, such as woodblock. This made plain his concern with decorative, even archaic, design at a time of modern techniques and style, exemplified by Beardsley. The innovations in photographical and photomechanical methods enabled mass (re)production, and with the successful development of the line-block, a new and satisfactory method of reproducing drawings was found, which gave contemporary illustrators an acceptable means of translating their pen-and-ink drawings. ∂ In addition to his own works, Morris chose to publish ‘classic’, medieval, Gothic and established texts through the Kelmscott Press, most notably

William Morris (1834-1896), illustration for The Frankeleyn’s Tale, from The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, 1896. University of Leeds Brotherton Collection BELOW

Charles Ricketts (1866-1931), cover design for The Dial, Vol II, 1892. University of Leeds Brotherton Collection RIGHT

the whole process from initial design to the printed page, he looked back to the second half of the fifteenth century as the time of not only the earliest, but the finest printed books. Morris had paper and vellum made to his own specification, imported ink from Germany, and designed typefaces, borders, and ornamental letters. ∂ Another printer-designer, Charles Ricketts, took up the cause by founding the Vale Press to create books that were ‘conceived harmoniously and made beautifully like any other genuine work of art’. The ‘Private Press Movement’ produced other notable examples of book design and illustration, in the work of the Ashendene, Doves, Eragny and, later, Essex House Presses. At the same time publishers, led by John Lane, Elkin Mathews and JM Dent, responded by producing books which competed as much on aesthetic grounds, in elegance of presentation, as in names and contents. This can also be seen in the flourishing of journals and periodicals

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The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, which is widely regarded as his most completely realised and finest achievement. Where his choices were often anachronistic, the Vale Press and others, while committed to similar ideals and standards of workmanship, were prepared to publish works by contemporary writers, notably Wilde. ∂ The richness and diversity of book illustration in the 1890s owes much to a combination of gifted printers and decorators, the commitment of the private presses to producing ‘the book beautiful’, and the processes by which the illustrations were made and reproduced. Together, these factors resulted in a decade during which Walter Crane’s dictum that ‘book illustration should be something more than a collection of accidental sketches’ was put into practice. n Walter Crane (18451915), illustration for The Story of the Glittering Plain by William Morris, 1894. University of Leeds Brotherton Collection RIGHT

Charles Ricketts (1866-1931), cover design for In the Key of Blue by John Addington Symonds, 1893. University of Leeds Special Collections, The Fay and Geoff rey Elliott Collection OPPOSITE

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‘The aim of the book decorators, as in the case of the best printers, was to produce designs which should not be beautiful merely in themselves but beautiful in their relationship to the whole of the book – both from the point of view of appearance and idea.’ Holbrook Jackson, The 1890s

Fancy & Imagination: Beardsley and the Book Illustrators  

Catalogue to accompany the 2010-11 Aubrey Beardsley exhibition, 'Fancy & Imagination: Beardsley and the Book Illustrators'.

Fancy & Imagination: Beardsley and the Book Illustrators  

Catalogue to accompany the 2010-11 Aubrey Beardsley exhibition, 'Fancy & Imagination: Beardsley and the Book Illustrators'.

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