“Caricature of Audrey Beardsley,” by Max Beerbohm

Wikis > "Caricature of Audrey Beardsley," by Max Beerbohm

This image is titled, “Caricature of Audrey Beardsley,” by Max Beerbohm. The medium is a wood engraving after a caricature drawing.

This image is from a little magazine titled, The Savoy, which was published by Arthur Symons.  Beerbohm depicts an abstracted Audrey Beardsley, an artist who helped Symons found and illustrate The Savoy after his discontinuation from The Yellow Book due to the Oscar Wilde scandal. Beerbohm’s caricature is featured on page 161 in the second volume of The Savoy, published in 1896.  Click here to view Beerbohm’s image in the flipbook version of The Savoy: Volume 2  https://archive.org/stream/savoy_1896_02/#page/n169/mode/2up

Caricature portrait of a man with a large angular head disproportionate to a thin human body and elongated fingers. The man is wearing a tuxedo and walking a toy dog (poodle) on a leash. The background features Audrey Beardsley's name in block text with trees drawn on top of his name.
A Caricature of Audrey Beardsley, by Max Beerbohm (1896).

The caricature was a curiosity to come across due to its glaring dissimilarity to other artworks in the second volume of The Savoy. Other images in the volume are depicted with a heavy-handed brush or ink, with more serious undertones that connote either religion or sexuality. From previous analysis in class, it was determined that The Savoy was a magazine that catered to the general public, made accessible to the lower and middle class by its cheap price. Due to its circulation in the common public, the content reflected topics more known in low culture media – religion, sex, and celebration of holidays.  In comparison, Beerbohm’s caricature of Beardsley is more abstract, light handed, and errs on the side of satirical comedy due to its ridiculous proportions. The image depicts Beardsley wearing a tuxedo while walking a toy dog on a leash. He has grotesquely elongated fingers, an angular head much too large for his thin body with a noticeable blank spot where his exposed brain should be (it could also be a hairstyle – hard to determine.) Through the symbolism of the caricature, one can assume that Beerbohm was satirically critiquing Beardsley and his involvement in the little magazine art community. This highbrow artistic satire feels even more so out of place when compared against the darker art content of this volume.

Further research is required to determine the history behind this artwork. It will be interesting to determine public opinion of Beardsley and his infamous involvement with the Wilde case. I stipulate that Beardsley’s reputation and involvement in the artistic community is what motivated Beerbohm to illustrate Beardsley in this caricature form. It’s also important to note that Beardsley himself also worked on this volume of The Savoy, contributing both cover art and image inserts. That being said, it seems unlikely that Beardsley would be unaware of this caricature submitted by a fellow artist. That begs the question, was he aware of this satire?

 

 

Beerbohm, Max. “Caricature of Audrey Beardsley” The Savoy, vol. 2, April 1896, p. 161. The Savoy Digital Edition, edited by Christopher Keep and Lorraine Janzen Kooistra 2018 – 2019. Yellow Nineties 2.0, Ryerson University Centre for Digital Humanities, 2019.

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