Friday, February 19, 2010

Beardsley's Self Portrait in Bed

Aubrey Beardsley's self portrait reflects one of the reasons his artistic career was so short: his constant battle with illness, most specifically tuberculosis. It most likely comes from around the time where he was art editor for the English literary magazine, The Yellow Book, whose publication ran from about 1894-1897. Tuberculosis would be the cause of Beardsley's death shortly thereafter in 1898. The text in the upper left corner translates to "by the twin Gods all monsters are not in Africa", not only hinting at the English attitudes toward Africa at the time, but also to the devastation that tuberculosis caused, often keeping him confined to his home and bed.

Beardsley's self portrait is quite recognizable as the style he used in most of his work, with a strong contrast and use of positive and negative space. The black of the bed curtains balances the white of the sheets and background, creating a strong flat area that nonetheless expresses the shapes of the folds of the fabric through its outline. The white rounds of flowers maintain an even pattern, and their shape mirrors that of both the tassels of the bed as well as the folds of fabric atop Beardsley's head. Within the white negative space, Beardsley uses a minimum of fine line to articulate the remaining shapes of his bed, his pillows, and himself. That he is so dwarfed by his bed and pillows suggests again the toll that his chronic disease took on him.

No comments:

Post a Comment