Olexandra Dovzhyk is a PhD candidate at Birkbeck College, University of London. Her research is currently focused on the Russian afterlife of the late-Victorian artist Aubrey Beardsley. In addition to uncovering traces of the ‘Beardsley craze’ behind various manifestations of the Russian Silver-age culture, Olexandra explores how the public image of Beardsley acquired a quasi-religious connotation and how the notion of the ‘Beardsleyesque’ functioned in the writings and life practices of the Russian modernists.
‘Discovered’ in Russia in the mid-1890s by the designers of the celebrated World of Art group, Beardsley was quickly fashioned into a cultural icon. Starting with a note in the first volume of the first modernist periodical Mir iskusstva (1899-1904), the Russian ‘Beardsley industry’ soon included a thematic issue of the prominent literary review Vesy (1904-1909), translations of verse and prose, elegant albums of drawings, entries in popular encyclopedias, scholarly monographs, and more. Post-symbolist poets, for instance, Nikolai Gumilev and Mikhail Kuzmin, alluded to Beardsley in their verse and scribbled their poems on the backs of Beardsley’s postcards. By 1910s, the army of Beardsley’s devotees included not only sophisticated Anglophiles and worldly aesthetes, but also dozens of imitators, who produced fashion plates, postcards, and magazine illustrations. The name of the English artist grew into a set epithet to characterise a sensibility, a style, and a quality which could be discovered in people and things. Moreover, the early works of the incipient Avant-Garde movement, particularly, Futurism, indicate adoption of the ubiquitous Beardsleyesque aesthetics.
Olexandra is a co-organiser of the conference Forgotten Geographies in the Fin de Siècle, 1880–1920, which is supported by the British Association for Victorian Studies (BAVS). The conference will take place at Birkbeck, 8–9 July 2016.