Will Rothenstein Laying Down the Law
Ink, colored chalks, and wash on paper,
Oscar Wilde would write in The Ballad of Reading Gaol (1898) that each man kills the thing he loves. In the case of both Max Beerbohm and Aubrey Beardsley, neither could resist the impulse to poke fun at the things—and people—they loved. Their comic art often paid homage and expressed affection in the form of ridicule. Beerbohm’s caricature of his dear friend, the artist William Rothenstein, showed the latter as a dogmatic, arrogant youth who never hesitated to tell everybody how to conduct their business, whether in art, writing, or politics. Among the figures receiving his (unwanted) lectures were Oscar Wilde, the novelist George Moore, and the future King, Edward VII (1841–1910), along with Beardsley. Identified as “AUBREY,” he is here a wispy, hawk-nosed outline in profile with a tiny top hat balanced on his head, perhaps echoing one of Beardsley’s own Bon-Mots grotesques.
From the Mark Samuels Lasner Collection, University of Delaware Library, Museums and Press