The Climax Aubrey Beardsley Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Aubrey Beardsley was a famous British artist from the late 19th century who worked commercially as an illustrator on a number of publications. The Climax is a fine example of the considerable talent that he possessed.

The Climax features Salome kissing the severed head of John the Baptist, and the original drawing was completed by Aubrey Beardsley in 1893, just before it was first published. It was one of many drawings that he contributed to Salome, a British publication of an Oscar Wilde play. The artwork shown here is contemporary in style, with just a few lines creating each form. The most intensive area of the composition is within a series of circles in the top left corner which contrasts with the simpler parts of the illustration elsewhere. Aside from the two figures, nearer the bottom we also find some flourishes of nature. Beardsley regularly used flowers, trees and also peacock feathers as a means to illuminate his drawings, placing elements of them around the central theme. In this case we find Salome floating in mid air, whilst holding the head in both hands. Less detail is given to her clothing than in other Salome drawings, and it is just simple white plains, with black lines which signify the rolls of material.

Beardsley was somehow able to establish himself as a famous artist despite his career only lasting around six full years in total. His life was cut short by illness, sadly, and he also experienced regular problems leading up to that which would sometimes prevent him from working for short periods of time. Such issues were not uncommon during the 19th century, which was why family sizes were so large at that time. Salome can be considered the most famous series of artworks that he produced although his work on The Yellow Book was also highly significant. He found a niche in providing illustrations that would line publications, sitting alongside texts and bringing these wonderful pieces of literary brilliance to life in a visual format. He would sometimes be asked to amend some of them, most often because his style could be considered a little inappropriate for some audiences, but in the main he was allowed a fairly free scope in which to work.

Another very similar sketch, titled J'ai baisé ta bouche Iokanaan is in existence. It also came in the year 1893 and added a small amount of text which does not appear in this alternative version displayed in this page. A printed portfolio of the designs appeared in the early 20th century and many of these have made their way into some prominent collections, in the UK and US. His style still feels remarkably contemporary, even though these items were produced over a century ago, again underlining the brilliance and natural talent possessed by this artist who was born on the English south coast. He was influenced by his time in Paris where he came across a wide variety of contemporary artists, many of whom actually where from abroad but inspired to come to this famous city themselves. Poster art was popular at the time and illustrators could make a good living by promoting some of the local businesses, with the best being considered notable artists in their own right.