Prospectus for Sir Thomas Malory, The Birth, Life, & Acts of King Arthur, of His Noble Knights of the Round Table, Their Marvellous Enquests and Adventures, the Achieving of the San Greal, and in the End, Le Morte Darthur…
J. M. Dent,
When the firm of J. M. Dent commissioned Beardsley to illustrate this deluxe edition of a classic of medievalism, little did it know what it was in for, although the prospectus offered hints. Throughout this lengthy project, Beardsley’s style and interests were evolving. What began with tributes to Burne-Jones’s work for Morris’s Kelmscott Press moved in unexpected directions. Instead of just Arthurian knights of the Middle Ages, images inspired by classical mythology kept creeping in, and irrelevant naked figures invaded the designs. The influence, too, of recent encounters with Japanese prints soon was visible. Beardsley grew bored with having to churn out literally hundreds of drawings to fulfill his contract and increasingly indulged his changing tastes, as he turned from Pre-Raphaelite-ish aestheticism to decadence.
From the Mark Samuels Lasner Collection, University of Delaware Library, Museums and Press