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The climax

Aubrey Beardsley • Graphics, 1893, 17.7×12.7 cm
Digital copy: 564.9 kB
1665 × 2292 px • JPEG
12.7 × 17.7 cm • 329 dpi
28.2 × 38.8 cm • 150 dpi
14.1 × 19.4 cm • 300 dpi
Digital copy is a high resolution file, downloaded by the artist or artist's representative. The price also includes the right for a single reproduction of the artwork in digital or printed form.
About the artwork
Art form: Graphics
Subject and objects: Literary scene
Style of art: Art Nouveau
Technique: Writing ink, Handle
Materials: Paper
Date of creation: 1893
Size: 17.7×12.7 cm
Artwork in selections: 8 selections
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Exhibitions history
December 14, 2019 − March 22, 2020
The Clark Art Institute, South St. 225

Description of the artwork «The climax»

The Climax is one of Beardsley’s most famous works, which has earned him immense popularity (and many hard times to come). In February 1884, the publication of Oscar Wilde’s scandalous play, Salome, with illustrations by Aubrey Beardsley was published. As expounded by Wilde, the short biblical story was filled with passion and erotic detail. While Beardsley filled the book with amazing drawings with naked body parts, overtones and hints. In Victorian England, it was enough to cause a scandal, and Wilde’s reputation only contributed to it.

Nevertheless, despite the ambiguous reaction of the public and a very small circulation (755 ordinary copies and 125 “special” ones), the artist’s skill was surely noticed. According to some critics, Beardsley’s illustrations overshadowed the plot and characters, making Aubrey Beardsley the centrepiece of the play. In The Death of Arthur, which the artist illustrated just a year earlier, he paid great attention to the landscapes and details surrounding the characters. In Salome, all this was unimportant and insignificant: Beardsley’s characters seem to float in the air against a white or black background.

Salome herself deserves special attention. She dances with her bare breast to the accompaniment of a strange creature resembling a little demon (“Belly Dance”). As for The Climax, there is also some devilry here. Beardsley portrayed the insidious Herodias in the image of a certain angel of death: the pattern behind her back resembles dark wings, and the flowing hair looks like horns. At the same time, the image of the head of John the Baptist refers us to the myth of the Gorgon, his hair looks like a ball of snakes. Moreover, all illustrations for Salome are very similar to Japanese prints of the 19th century, which Beardsley was seriously interested in at the time.

Written by Yevhgeniia Sidelnikova