Books: Notable: Apr. 6, 1981

AUBREY BEARDSLEY

by Miriam J. Benkovitz

Putnam; 226 pages; $11.95

From his black-trimmed London studio, Aubrey Beardsley transformed book illustration into high art. His use of curves and filigrees had the delicacy and tensile strength of Victorian wrought iron, but his subjects—fauns, satyrs, naked slaves—earned him a reputation of fearful decadence. Even in the prurient "yellow nineties," when young men dragged live lobsters down Pall Mall on silken leashes, Beardsley was singled out. "A monstrous orchid," Oscar Wilde proclaimed him, a judgment unchallenged until now.

In this overdue study, Miriam J. Benkovitz, a biographer...

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