Beardsley was born in Brighton, England on 21 August 1872, to middle class parents who struggled to make ends meet. Beardsley suffered from tuberculosis from the age of nine and was sick for most of his life.

His distinctive Art Nouveau pen and ink drawings make dramatic use of contrast between dark and light areas. Beardsley’s drawings were featured in many books during his lifetime, including Oscar Wilde’s Salome, Thomas Malory’s Le Morte D’Arthur, and Aristophanes’ Lysistrata. Beardsley’s work is often grotesque and erotic. It was controversial for its time and continues to have shock value for some today.

Aubrey Beardsley was unknown in 1892. By the time of his death in 1898, a mere six years, he had broken through the Victorian unconscious and hurled England into the 20th century.

Many of his drawing first made their appearance in books or magazines with relatively limited subscription. Despite this, his erotic, humorous, and haunting drawings came to be popular and have been for more than a hundred years.