Mar 8, 2015

Aubrey Beardsley: Closeting the Phallic Artist

When I was in college, gay people were never, ever mentioned in class.  Professors refused to assign the works of gay authors, artists, and musicians, or if that was impossible, tried their best to pretend that they were heterosexual.

So when they discussed Aubrey Beardsley (1872-1898), the artist of the Aesthete and Decadent Movement, they emphasized his illustrations of naked women and heterosexual couples, and ignored the gigantic penises (so gigantic that I'm embarrassed to show them here).

They emphasized his illustrations of Le Morte d'Arthur and Oscar Wilde's Salome, and his covers of The Yellow Book.  They skipped over the intensely homoerotic symbolism in his illustrations for Lysistrata and Venus and Tannhauser.

And they certainly ignored his friendships with Oscar Wilde, Max Beerbohm, and all of the gay writers and artists of the Yellow 90s.

What was left was a hetero-horny young man with an inexplicable interest in phallic imagery.

In 1897, Beardsley converted to Catholicism, like many of the Aesthetes in the years after Oscar Wilde's trial, and asked his publisher to destroy his "obscene drawings."  He died of tuberculosis a year later, at the age of 25.

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