The conference AB 2020: Beardsley Re-Viewed (29 May 2020, St Bride Foundation) was planned to coincide with the Aubrey Beardsley exhibition at Tate Britain. Like so many events scheduled for 2020, the conference was first rescheduled and eventually cancelled because of the Covid-19 pandemic. In this post, you can find its ephemeral remains.
The poster for AB 2020: Beardsley Re-Viewed was designed by the Ukrainian graphic artist Hanna Strizh. It incorporates elements of Beardsley’s drawings Enter Herodias, Lysistrata Haranguing the Athenian Women, and The Scarlet Pastorale.
Call for papers
A ‘decadent fakir’ and ‘an intellectual Marcellus’, ‘the Fra Angelico of Satanism’ and ‘the only artist who knows what the dance of seven veils is, and can see that invisible dance’: Aubrey Beardsley was many things to many an observer. He ‘pictured’ some of the iconic volumes of the Yellow Nineties, including works by Ernest Dowson, George Egerton, and Oscar Wilde, and defined the style of the two key periodicals of the English Decadence, The Yellow Book and The Savoy. Exploiting the cheap, accurate, and speedy method of photomechanical reproduction, Beardsley’s black-and-white designs achieved, in his own words, ‘publicity without a frame, and beauty without modelling’. Provoked by his wanton line, the guardians of good morals, parodists, and imitators added fuel to the fire of the Beardsley Craze, while artists worldwide absorbed the lessons of his stylistic economy and near-abstract composition. Although his professional career spanned a mere six years, the aftermath of the 1890s Beardsley boom was felt throughout the twentieth century across the globe. With the publication of Linda Gertner Zatlin’s fundamental Aubrey Beardsley: A Catalogue Raisonné of 2016 to be followed by a major Beardsley exhibition at Tate Britain in 2020, are we in a new ‘Beardsley period’ today?
AB 2020: Beardsley Re-Viewed aims to reclaim the artist for the twenty-first century and revive the subversive and transformative potential of the Beardsleyesque. This two-day conference welcomes interdisciplinary approaches as interventions to established models for Beardsley scholarship and invites debate about academic and museological narratives that have shaped Beardsley’s reputation. In keeping with the transnational turn in the humanities, we will explore responses to Beardsley’s work from a variety of cultural locales and across the arts. We are curious about the metamorphoses of Beardsley’s imagery and styles in the work of Mina Loy and Pablo Picasso, Claude Cahun and Leon Bakst, Vladimir Nabokov and Alexander McQueen, as well as lesser-known cultural figures and movements. While highlighting new archival work, we seek to reassess Beardsley in relation to the urgent debates around mediality, queerness, disabled identities, and camp aesthetics. Finally, we are eager to view and review the largest exhibition of Beardsley’s original drawings scheduled for Spring 2020 at Tate Britain and scrutinise the current ‘Beardsley period’ from within.
Download the full Call for Papers here.
Download the programme of AB 2020: Beardsley Reviewed here.
The panellists included Joseph Thorne, Margaret Stetz, Matthew Potolsky, Sasha Dovzhyk, Paul Bevan, Samuel Shaw, and Darcy Sullivan. Linda Gertner Zatlin, Jane Desmarais, Dominic Janes, and Simon Wilson were to participate in the roundtable on Tate Britain’s exhibition. The keynote lecture on Beardsley at the Cinema was to be given by Kate Hext. Martha Kapos, Alice Hiller, Émile Herm, and Golnoosh Nour were to read their Beardsleyesque poems, and all the Beardsleyites were to party.
We hope to return with a renewed programme when it is safe again for us to convene. Meanwhile, let’s keep the Beardsley Craze aflame by updating the AB Blog regularly and with passion.