This exhibition explores the reasons why illustrations by the Beardsley generation of artists in the 1890s were so radically different from anything that had gone before.
The exhibition will explore the impact the new photographic means of reproduction (process engraving) had on illustration at the end of the 19th century. Older artists who had relied on the craft wood-engraver to work up their sketches for publication were swept aside and a new generation of artists, well versed in the requirements of process engraving, were much in demand. The technology also resulted in an expansion in the production of illustrated books and periodicals.
The new generation found inspiration in the work of the 1860s illustrators, especially Rossetti, Millais and Boyd Houghton. They also turned to the illustrated books printed in Venice and Florence around 1500; to the Japanese woodblock prints of artists such as Hiroshige; and to Symbolist painters such as Gustav Moreau.
Central to the exhibition is the work of Aubrey Beardsley, Charles Ricketts, Laurence Housman and the Robinson brothers, represented through original drawings, books and periodicals drawn from both public and private collections. The importance of publishers such as John Lane, JM Dent and Leonard Smithers, and the influence of avante garde periodicals of the period is also explored.