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Beardsley, Art Nouveau and Ornament
Transcript of Beardsley, Art Nouveau and Ornament
August 21, 1872 - March 16, 1898
Subversion ofVictorian Society
The term "Victorian" refers to the events and culture that took place during the reign of England's Queen Victoria.
Often, the people of the time are thought of as "prudish," "repressed," and "old fashioned."
the notion that one can create solutions to problems, that man can create new means of bettering himself and his environment.
In ideology, politics, and society, the Victorians created astonishing innovation and change: democracy, feminism, unionization of workers, socialism, Marxism, and other modern movements took form.
More than anything else what makes Victorians Victorian is their sense of social responsibility. The poet Matthew Arnold refused to reprint his poem "Empedocles on Etna," in which the Greek philosopher throws himself into the volcano, because it set a bad example."
The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood
The J. Paul Getty Museum website states about Beardsley that
“From a young age, Beardsley displayed a natural aptitude for drawing. Despite little formal training, he devoted his energies to art and produced drawings that revealed broad influences including Greek vase-painting, Japanese prints, French Rococo decoration, and the paintings of Andrea Mantegna. Embarking upon a brief yet brilliant career, Beardsley received a commission to illustrate a new edition of the King Arthur legend in 1893. The following year he became the art editor and illustrator of a new quarterly journal, The Yellow Book. Beardsley’s illustrations for Oscar Wilde’s celebrated play Salomé earned him his greatest professional acclaim, but his professional association with the flamboyant Wilde led to dismissal from the journal. Beardsley quickly rebounded, however, and became principal illustrator of another new magazine. During this period he also illustrated numerous books and composed poetry and prose. Aware that he was dying of tuberculosis, Beardsley pushed himself to explore new psychological and erotic realms. Ill from the age of seven, he died in Paris at twenty-five.”
Most writers on the Aesthetic Movement agree that its roots lie in the reaction to Industrialization in mid-19th century England The movement incorporated both exotic and historical sources of design generally, the Japanese influence became the strongest and best known. However, not all Aesthetic Movement design is in a Japanese style and vice versa.
Woman at the Bath
The themes of Japanese Woodblock prints are often rather voyeuristic - as though the viewer is looking through a window or a keyhole and catching a glimpse of an intimate moment in action. This "caught in the moment" imagery became highly sought after by the artists of the time.
During the period of the "Decadence" (1880-1900), artists and writers reacted against high Victorian values. <4> The Decadents preferred pessimism to optimism, the decayed to the living, the abnormal to the normal, and the artificial to the natural. As avantgarde artists, they were constantly engaged in a search for the new. In society, they looked to the "New Woman" and the "new hedonism," and culturally, there was "new drama" and Art Nouveau. <5> They were influenced by the aestheticism of the 1870's whose slogan was "art for art's sake," where art was appreciated solely for its intrinsic pleasure. <6> This contrasts with the Victorian utilitarian concept of art, where art does not exist merely for pleasure's sake, but must serve some higher purpose. Victorians also attached a moral dimension in judging artistic merit, and felt that only a good person can create good art. In reaction to this idea, the Decadents attempted to live their lives according to their concept of art. As a result, many of the leading artists of this movement lived decadent lifestyles, and were suspected of drug use and homosexuality. <7> The reaction of the "Decadence" paralleled social changes that were occurring under the impetus of the women's movement. While the Decadents criticized Victorian values, the women's movement threatened to break down the entire Victorian social structure.
A close analysis of Beardsley's drawings reveal more than a witty and fantastic style. Because he was so intensely concerned about social issues, and
particularly, the inequities and hypocrisies of Victorian society
, his drawings not only critique Victorian vices, but
support the breakdown of the patriarchal system
. Many of Beardsley's illustrations reveal a world where the "New Woman" is empowered with knowledge, free to expand her gender boundaries, and fully capable of experiencing a sexuality based on equality.
One of Beardsley's underlying themes in his drawings is the depiction of vice in a male context. For Beardsley, vice was the male struggle for power. His drawings depict men who lust for wealth, men who attempt to corrupt other men intellectually, and men who use sexuality as a weapon in the struggle for dominance. <21> In defending this aspect of his art, Beardsley said, "People hate to see their darting vices depicted [but] vice is terrible and it should be depicted." <22>
Research, research, research a specific culture or society of your choosing. Dig into a theme that fascinates you, and find myths, legends, or stories that are related.
You will use a limited color palette - black+white, and you may add ONE color.
While we have looked at Zentangle - this is NOT a Zentangle assignment. You must use pattern and decorative elements as just that - DECORATION and ADORNMENT. The motifs used should enhance the piece, not overpower it nor be the central focus.