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Aubrey Beardsley. Salomé: a tragedy in one act / Oscar Wilde. Boston:  John W. Luce, 1907 (1. ed., London: Elkin Mathews & John Lane, 1894)

“Through his art school teacher, Beardsley exhibited line drawings at the New English Art Club, an alternative, more 'modern' London venue launched in 1885. One was his first depiction of Salome caressing the severed head of John the Baptist, which together with other drawings reproduced in the arts magazine The Studio, led to a commission from the publisher John Lane to illustrate an edition of Oscar Wilde's play Salome (1894). Beardsley knew Wilde through his new friends Robert Ross, a journalist and art critic, artist Will Rothenstein and caricaturist-cum-dandy Max Beerbohm. The illustrations were in a truly new mode. The swooping lines and variegated patterning reflect Beardsley's admiration for Whistler's peacocks and Japanese shunga (erotic art) woodblocks, while the compositions, with figures often floating high on the page and wearing the latest fashion, visually matched Wilde's extravagant dialogue. The sexual element of the Salome illustrations is clearly but coldly conveyed, with naked nipples and naked boys, while the many details (drawn from the text) create tense, unbalanced compositions. Like much of the public and press, The Times condemned the illustrations as "fantastic, grotesque, unintelligible, repulsive". This reception was of course success by scandal.”

Jan Marsh. Aubrey Beardsley: decadence & desire. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 2020

“What did annoy Oscar [Wilde] in the weeks that followed the issue of the book was the extent to which Beardsley was generally perceived to have 'slighted' his superb text by wilfully making drawings that failed -in the conventional sense, at least- to illustrate the book at all. This question of the 'irrelevance', of the highly tangential relationship that exists between image and word, or simply of the 'impertinence' of Beardsley's designs, would be taken up by many of the book's critics as a key issue. As one writer in The Studio succinctly put it, 'we find the irrepressible personality of the artist dominating everything - whether the compositions do or do not illustrate the text...'.”

Stephen Calloway. Aubrey Beardsley. London: V&A Publications, 1998 (p. 80)

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