King John smiles as he signs Magna Charta, c. 1887 (pen & ink), Beardsley, Aubrey (1872-98) / Private Collection / Prismatic Pictures / The Bridgeman Art Library
Aubrey Beardsley (1872 – 1898) led the British Aestheticism movement, creating complex, controversial black-and-white linear artworks. Originally a clerk, Beardsley was strongly inspired by Art Nouveau’s elegance as well as the boldness of Japanese woodcuts. He illustrated numerous publications with his intricate, erotic artwork, and created 17 sensual drawings for the play “Salome” by Oscar Wilde. The public eventually rejected Beardsley for his art's perceived immorality and his affiliation with Wilde. In the 1960s, Beardsley’s work was revived, significantly impacting Art Nouveau and Symbolism.