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Aubrey Beardsley

Aubrey Beardsley, by Jacques-Emile Blanche, 1895 -NPG 1991 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Aubrey Beardsley

by Jacques-Emile Blanche
Oil on canvas, 1895
36 1/2 in. x 29 in. (926 mm x 737 mm) overall
NPG 1991

Inscriptionback to top

Signed, inscr. and dated lower right: ‘J.E. Blanche / Dieppe 95’.
Inscr. in pencil on back of stretcher: ‘Jeune Anglais / en gris’;
stencilled: ‘13’;
chalk: ‘224–4 / Bx5-2 / 427’;
and label: ‘122’.

This portraitback to top

Dieppe in the 1880s and 1890s was a popular resort for literary and artistic figures on both sides of the Channel. The Beardsleys found it a healthy and sociable retreat (‘Really Dieppe is quite sweet’ Beardsley wrote from the Casino).[1] It was here in 1893 that Beardsley, Henry Harland, John Lane and others met to discuss plans for The Yellow Book. The Blanches’ holiday house at Le Bas Fort Blanc was a focus of hospitality and in its seafront studio both Beardsley and Arthur Symons sat to Jacques-Emile Blanche for their portraits in 1895.[2] Beardsley specified ‘an ordinary Watts frame – gilded (and glazed)’ for his portrait’s first showing at the Society of Portrait Painters, though in the event a plain gilt oak one was made.[3]

Blanche was intrigued by Beardsley’s persona but ultimately uncomfortable with his work. He left perceptive portraits of Beardsley both in paint and in print:

Son visage émacié présentait un nez très busqué et très osseux entre deux petits yeux perçants, couleur de noisette, sous des cheveux de ce blond-acajou, dit ‘auburn’, que séparait en bandeau, sur un front bombé, une raie soigneusement faite. Toujours vêtu, le jour, d’un costume gris clair, une fleur à la boutonnière, ganté, il tenait verticalement, par le milieu, une grosse canne de jonc, dont il frappait le sol pour scander ses phrases et accompagner ses mots.[4]

The anglophile Blanche had intended to bequeath the painting (and other portraits of British subjects) to the British nation. After the First World War financial difficulties obliged him to sell his personal art collection and to reconsider his plans and in 1923 the painting was purchased from Blanche through the intermediacy of Beardsley’s publisher, John Lane of the Bodley Head. Until then it remained in Blanche’s collection, although it was also loaned to the Beardsley family; it ‘went on tours all over America and I got fine offers, which I always dismissed, having it in my mind that Aubrey’s portrait I would bequeath to the National Gallery.’[5] The picture was bought by the NPG for £200; of that sum £50 was to be channelled into a maintenance fund for the aged Mrs Beardsley, a condition to which Blanche readily agreed.[6]

The NPG has a remarkable collection of Beardsley portraits, acquired over a period of fifty years. NPG 1991 is the prime oil painting of the artist.

Carol Blackett-Ord

Footnotesback to top

1) Letter from Beardsley to William Rothenstein, July 1895; Maas, Duncan & Good 1971, p.93.
2) Symons’s portrait is coll. Tate, on loan to NPG L135.
3) 5th Exhibition, 1895 (10). Letter from Beardsley to W. Rothenstein, late Sept. 1895; Maas, Duncan & Good 1971, pp.100–101; and Simon 1996, pp.181–2.
4) Cited in Collet 2006, p.88. See also Blanche 1919, pp.116–18; and Blanche 1937, p.40 passim.
5) Letter from J.-E. Blanche to J. Lane, 9 Feb. 1923, transcript of letter in NPG RP 1991.
6) Letter from J. Lane to J.-E. Blanche, July 1923, transcript of letter in NPG RP 1991.

Physical descriptionback to top

Half-length, seated slightly to left, gloved right hand holding cane, landscape background.

Provenanceback to top

The artist; purchased by the NPG July 1923.

Exhibitionsback to top

Society of Portrait Painters, 5th exhibition, London, 1895 (10).

Salon de l’art nouveau, Paris, 1895 (32).

VIIe Salon de la Société nationale des beaux-arts, Paris, 1896 (146).

Exposition de peintres et de sculpteurs, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, 1907 (22).

Portraits d’hommes, Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Paris, 1907 (5).

Loan Collection of Drawings by Aubrey Beardsley, National Gallery, London, 1923–4 (7).

Aubrey Beardsley, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1966 (475).

Aubrey Beardsley, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1967.

Post Impressionism, Royal Academy, London, 1979–80 (25).

Post Impressionism, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1980 (98).

Aubrey Beardsley in den ‘Yellow Nineties’: Dekadenz oder Modernität, Museum Villa Stuck, Munich, 1984 (1).

The Dieppe Connection: The Town and its Artists from Turner to Braque, Brighton Museum & Art Gallery, 1992 (4).

The Art of the Picture Frame, NPG, London, 1996–7 (104).

J.-E. Blanche, peintre, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Rouen, 1997–8 (29); Palazzo Martinengo, Brescia, 1998 (29).

The Wilde Years, Barbican Art Gallery, London, 2000–2001 (39).

Rebels and Martyrs: The Image of the Artist in the Nineteenth Century, National Gallery, London, 2006 (46).

Reproductionsback to top

Beardsley 1925, frontispiece (photogravure).

Blanche 1937, facing p.93.

Ribeiro 2000, p.93, fig.76.

Weisberg 2004, fig.136.

See also ‘Exhibitions’.

View all known portraits for Aubrey Vincent Beardsley


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