La Beale Isoud at Joyous Gard 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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This illustration was produced by Aubrey Beardsley was produced for a new edition of Le Morte d’Arthur by Thomas Malory. The famous 15th century manuscript drew on tales of King Arthur which were popular at the time.

The composition captures La Beale Isoud walking through her private garden. She was the daughter of King Anguish and also famously the true love of Sir Tristam. The story tells of how Lancelot would allow the couple to relax at this castle, and so this drawing underlines how she was enjoying her stay at the time. Whilst the content is relatively simple in one way, with her and a friend placed within a garden, some of the level of detail incorporated here is a true delight. The main artwork is framed with a nature-based pattern which fits within the theme of the garden itself. La Beale Isoud also wears an elongated dress which stretches right across the design, with a charming pattern filling its surface. Whilst her friend is busy reading, we also see some other elements of the garden, including a small water fountain as well as a whole series of trees and foliage, most of which are included at the back. There is also a small walled garden which illustrates the boundaries of the castle and reminds us of their location.

Aubrey Beardsley's skills of illustration were called on regularly for commissions such as this. Most within this trade would have to work alongside writers in this manner to find employment and a regular income. It was only painters and sculptors who might be able to sell work and generate a career purely on their own. This led to Beardsley becoming well acquainted with a number of successful publishers and he would always be keen to ensure that his carefully crafted designs would be delivered as accurately as possible once the books went into their production stages. La Beale Isoud at Joyous Gard may well have been spread across two different pages because of the unusual dimensions of this work, with it being quite so wide. In some photographs of the drawing, the piece has been separated into two, with the girl reading on the right hand side placed on another page. It is believed that this design was completed by Aubrey Beardsley in 1894.

The patterned elements around the frame of the drawing and in-keeping with traditional medieval styles found in Britain. The artist, therefore, was adapting his approach to best suit the content of the text itself. He is believed to have been contacted by publisher J.M. Dent when just nineteen years of age in order to complete this commission, underlining the great speed at which his reputation would grow, just a few years after he had set up as a professional illustrator. Many of the items of literature on which he worked would actually initially be written in French before being translated into English, and so an understanding of both cultures was important in order to provide the most suitable illustrations to accompany these famous texts. The artist's work was highly regarded and his reputation started to grow, with new commissions appearing fairly regularly.