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