More Than One Enchanted Evening in London

In turbulent times, turning to a fantasy world can seem distinctly more inviting than dealing with the trials of daily life.

"It comes down to the artists' personalities," said Engen. "Some [works] are totally fantastic escapism, while [other] horrific images emulate the horrors of war."

Indeed, a clutch of the artists in the exhibition reveled in the Gothic aspect of Beardsley's influence. Sidney Sime, a coal miner turned artist, depicted darkly absurd images, such as a child about to be captured into a laughing goblin's underground lair and fantastical beasts. Meanwhile, Harry Clarke's illustrations to accompany an edition of Edgar Allan Poe's "Tales of Mystery and Imagination" were commissioned to heighten the horror of the stories. And Clarke's image of a bound prisoner being set upon by rats, to illustrate Poe's story "The Pit and the Pendulum," has an echo of today's Gothic fashion designer Gareth Pugh's take on a fur stole — stuffed white rats stitched together, that seem to climb over the wearer's body.

Engen isn't surprised that designers and image makers have continued to draw on these visions of the enchanted world. "A lot of [the images] were taken from Mother Nature, who has always been the best designer," said Engen. "In the Sixties and Seventies, Beardsley posters were everywhere. [This kind of art] waned for a long period, but I think now there's a new generation of people who would like to discover [these works]...which came from a meticulous, well-studied background. It's the kind of art that lasts."
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