The Black Cat, for Edgar Allan Poe’s “Tales of Mystery and the Imagination,” Chicago, 1895–96

Aubrey Vincent Beardsley British
Related author Edgar Allan Poe American

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Responding to Poe's "The Black Cat," Beardsley shows the ferocious one-eyed feline that the narrator mistakenly walled up with the corpse of his wife. Revealed when the wall is broken through, the furious animal sits on the dead woman’s upright head, which the artist represents with masterful economy, using black lines against a white ground. In contrast, the background wall and cat are almost completely black, apart from a circular patch of white fur on the chest. This is one of four drawings that Beardsley made to illustrate a new American edition of Poe's "Tales of Mystery and the Imagination." The commission came from the Chicago publisher Stone and Kimball in December 1893 and the artist wrote in response that he believed the material offered "an admirable chance of picture making." Beginning in February 1894, Beardsley completed four of the eight requested designs. Related sets of prints were issued in portfolios that accompanied deluxe Japanese vellum versions of the publication in 1895-96.

The Black Cat, for Edgar Allan Poe’s “Tales of Mystery and the Imagination,” Chicago, 1895–96, Aubrey Vincent Beardsley (British, Brighton, Sussex 1872–1898 Menton), Pen, brush and India ink over graphite

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