Artist biography

English caricaturist and writer. He was educated at Charterhouse and Merton College, Oxford, and in the 1890s showed precocious gifts of observant figure sketching. His usual style of single-figure caricatures on formalised groupings, drawn in pen or pencil with delicately applied watercolour tinting, was established by the time he came of age and flourished until c. 1930. In contrast to the narrative jocosities of the Punch tradition he showed a lightness of touch and simplicity of line that owed more to the traditions of the literary epigram than to any overall accomplishment in draughtsmanship. Usually inept with hands and feet, Beerbohm excelled in heads and with dandified male costume of a period whose elegance became a source of nostalgic inspiration. His small but exquisite literary output, including the novel Zuleika Dobson, or an Oxford Love Story (1911), was matched by collections of illustrative work. He published widely in fashionable magazines, and his works were exhibited regularly in London at the Carfax Gallery (1901–8) and Leicester Galleries (1911–57). After his marriage in 1910 he settled in Italy, living quietly at Rapallo, where he drew and wrote infrequently and decorated books in his library (sold London, Sotheby's, 12 and 13 Dec 1960). There he indulged in nostalgia for a world peopled by late Victorian and Edwardian political, literary and theatrical eminences, in which the court of Edward VII had a special place as a subject for affectionate ridicule. He was knighted in 1939.

A. E. Gallatin and L. M. Oliver: A Bibliography of the Works of Max Beerbohm (London, 1952)
D. Cecil: Max: A Biography (London, 1964)
R. Hart-Davis: A Catalogue of the Caricatures of Max Beerbohm (London, 1972) [most significant work]


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