The linear style with elaborate surface patterns

Much poetry of the Aesthetes and Decadents gazes nostalgically back, not at the middle ages, like Carlyle, Ruskin, and Morris, but to a fancied Augustan age, an age of elegant costumes, beautiful ornateness/artificiality, and aristocratic clarity. Such a habit of associating themselves with the Augustan aristocracy seems particularly ironic given that most of the British Aesthetes and Decadents, with the exception of Wilde, came from the middle, even the lower middle, class. In illustration, Beardsley's Rape of the Lock, whose plates are created in his fine calligraphic line and elaborate patterns visualize such an imagines world. Cutting the lock of hair and the erotic Belinda in bed exemplify this strain in Beardsley, a strain that appears throughout Clarke's illustrations for “Blue Beard,” “The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood,” and “Cinderella; or, the Little Glass Slipper” from Perrault's Fairy Tales.

Left to right: (a) What, is not the key of my closet among the rest?. (b) “I will have it so,” replied the queen, “and will eat her with a sauce Robert”. (c) Anyone but Cinderella would have dressed their heads awry [Click on these images for larger pictures.]

In both monochrome and colored plates, Clarke uses large areas of blank space, all at the upper left in the three included above. Oner reason the Decadents looked to eighteenth-century society and costume appears in the obviously anti-natural artifice of men's and women's wigs, and, like Beardsley, Clarke pays a great deal of attention to these exaggerated headdresses. Yet another element of artifice appears in the elaborate patterns Clarke uses to represent textiles and other surfaces:

Examples of Clarke's elaborate surfaces, which flatten the composition and add to the element of artifice. The image at the left is a detail of the left-hand plate immediately above, and the one at right is a detail of a tail-piece for “Blue Beard.”

The style with large blocks of black and white

Clarke also employs Beardsley's other style, the one — perhaps best known from his illustrations to Wilde's Salome — which juxtaposes large areas black and white. The Black Cape, The Stomach Dance,, and The Dancer's Reward are famous examples of this mode:

Three by Beardsley — Left to right: (a) The Dancer's Reward. (b) The Stomach Dance. (c) The Dancer's Reward [Click on these images for larger pictures.]

Clarke uses such large areas of unbroken black in the title-page for “Cindrella” and an illustration for “Tom Thumb”:

Left: The Title-page for “Cindrella. Right: Little Thumb was as good as his word, and returned that same night with the news from “Littlre Thumb.”

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Last modified 26 December 2012