Yellow book



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Aubreay Vincent Beardsley (1872-1898)
b. Aug. 21, 1872, Brighton, Sussex, Eng. d. March 16, 1898, Menton, Fr.
He was a draughtsman and the leading English illustrator of the 1890s and, after Oscar Wilde, the outstanding figure in the Aestheticism movement.
Drawing was a strong interest from early childhood, and Beardsley continued with it while earning his living as a clerk.
A meeting with the English artist Sir Edward Burne-Jones in 1891 led to his attending evening classes at the Westminster School of Art for a few months, his only professional instruction. In 1893 he was commissioned to illustrate a new edition of Sir Thomas Malory's Morte Darthur, and in 1894 he was appointed art editor and illustrator of a new quarterly, The Yellow Book.
His illustrations for Oscar Wilde's play Salomé (1894) won him widespread notoriety. He was greatly influenced by the elegant, curvilinear style of Art Nouveau and the bold sense of design found in Japanese woodcuts.
But what startled critics and public alike was the obvious sensuality of the women in his drawings, which usually contained an element of morbid eroticism.
This tendency became pronounced in his openly licentious illustrations to Aristophanes' Lysistrata (1896). Although Beardsley was not homosexual and was quite outside the scandals surrounding Wilde, he was dismissed from The Yellow Book in the general revulsion against Aestheticism that followed Wilde's exposure in 1895.
He then became principal illustrator of another new magazine, The Savoy, and he illustrated numerous books, including Alexander Pope's Rape of the Lock (1896).
During this period he also wrote some poems and a prose parody, Under the Hill (1903; the original unexpurgated version, The Story of Venus and Tannhauser, appeared in 1907).
Delicate in health from the age of six, when he first contracted tuberculosis, he was attacked again by the disease when he was 17.
From 1896 he was an invalid. In 1897, after being received into the Roman Catholic Church, he went to live in France, where he died at the age of 25. His work enjoyed periodic revivals, most notably during the 1960s.

The Yellow Book
The usual myths about the Yellow Book are that Oscar Wilde was a shaping force behind it (he was not); that it was merely an experiment conducted by and for an elite, decadent few (it was not); and that its cultural significance ceased after Aubrey Beardsley 's dismissal (it did not). The Yellow Book was not the product of a single "Great Man" or of a uniform vision, but of a broad network of female and male authors, editors, illustrators, and booksellers, who came from diverse class and national backgrounds and who labored to bring together the interests of art and business. It encouraged developments in literary form that went beyond the conventional and shaped, in particular, the genre of the short story. And, at a time when patriarchal control of High Art was still the rule, the Yellow Book featured cover designs by women for four of its final five issues, as well as works by large numbers of female poets and fiction writers, two of whom also served as sub-editors of the magazine. This reconsideration suggests that the Yellow Book played a pivotal role in cultural history as much through its concrete editorial practices and production as through its avant-garde image.
According to Henry Harland, the expatriate American writer who became the magazine's literary editior, The Yellow Book was conceived on New Year's Day, 1894:
In one of the densest and soupiest and yellowest of all London's infernalest fogs, Aubrey Beardsley and I sat together the whole afternoon... We declared to each other that we thought it quite a pity and a shame that London publishers should feel themselves longer under any obligation to refuse any of our good manuscripts...And then and there we decided to have a magazine of our own...and the next day we had an appointment with Mr. John Lane.
In truth the idea had originated months before, among a cosmpopolitan group of writers and artists who congregated at the French resort of Dieppe, a group which included not only Beardsley and Harland but also the painters Walter Sickert and Charles Conder, the critic-artist D. S. MacColl, and the publisher John Lane, whose firm, the Bodley Head, specialized in poets and belles lettres. What they had in mind was a new type of journal which would attract attention by its format, by its contents, and -- unusual for the time -- by the complete separation of its literary side from its artistic side. Though the magazine was to typify "the new movement" in art and literature in many minds, the list of contributors was not extremely radical: Edmund Gosse, Walter Crane, Sir Frederick Leighton, and Henry James among others. Notably absent from its pages was Oscar Wilde, who was expressly barred though he was published by Mathews and Lane at the Bodley Head. According to Stanley Weintraub, "The color of The Yellow Book was an appropriate reflection of the 'Yellow Nineties," a decade in which Victorianism was giving way among the fashionable to Regency attitudes and French influences; For yellow was not only the decor of the notorious and dandified pre-Victorian Regency, but also of the allegedly wicked and decadent French novel" (Weintraub, 99).
The first volume, published by the Bodley Head on 16 April 1894, was highly anticipated, and went through three printings to satisfy demand. The critics, however, vilified both the text and the artwork, especially Beardsley's. More biting than the straightforward criticism, though, were the parodies of Beardsley's work and the magazine in Punch, a British political/social comic weekly.
To put the critics in their place, Beardsley published in Volume III two drawings by him in differing styles under the names Phillip Brouqhton and Albert Foschter. The Saturday Review exemplified the general reaction by finding Beardsley's work "as freakish as ever," but found Broughton's "a drawing of merit," and Foschter's "a clever study." Once he had fooled enough critics, Beardsley admitted the hoax.
The Yellow Book was successful, despite the critics, until Oscar Wilde's arrest in April 1895. When Wilde (who openly despised the publication) was arrested, he was seen clutching a book with a yellow cover. It was assumed to be The Yellow Book, or at least was reported as such in the newspapers. Contributors such as William Watson demanded that Beardsley be fired as art editor because of his association with Wilde (he had illustrated Wilde's Salome the year before) and the Bodley Head's premises were set upon by a mob who broke every window. Under pressure, Lane sacked Beardsley and removed all traces of the artist -- but the back cover and the spine, which were overlooked -- from Volume V, then in the final stages of production. Wilde was actually carrying a French novel with a yellow cover when he was arrested; but no doubt he was satisfied with the difficulties he caused to the magazine that denied him. The Yellow Book continued publication until 1897.
English illustrated quarterly published (1894-97) in book form in London. Henry Harland was literary editor, and Aubrey Beardsley , whose exotic and provocative drawings brought immediate attention to the publication, was art editor until 1896. The Yellow Book was a miscellany of short stories, articles, poetry, and drawings. It was able to draw material from writers with wide differences of style and viewpoint, but its emphasis was on the bizarre, the “modern,” and the aesthetic. It included among its contributors Oscar Wilde, Max Beerbohm, John Davidson, Richard Le Gallienne, William Butler
Yeats, Ernest Dowson, and Arnold Bennett.
The Yellow Book, the quintessential magazine of the British 1890s, was published in 13 volumes between April 1894 and April 1897. This "advanced" quarterly welcomed the newest in literature and art, particularly the work of women. Yet, apart from Aubrey Beardsley, who was its first art editor, and a handful of famous figures (Henry James, H. G. Wells, George Gissing, Max Beerbohm, John Singer Sargent, W. B. Yeats ), the extraordinarily varied contributors to the Yellow Book and their hundreds of contributions have been largely overlooked. A principal reason is the lack of an adequate guide.
Illustrations from Salomè