Aubrey Beardsley Exhibition | ‘I have one aim – the grotesque. If I am not grotesque – I am nothing’

Aubrey Beardsley exhibition

An Aubrey Beardsley exhibition showcasing the illustrative skills and imagination of the renowned 1890s draughtsman & illustrator opens at Shapero Rare Books 105 New Bond Street Gallery on 13th May 2021.

Shapero will be offering for sale an important collection of the artist’s works, started by Rainforth Armitage Walker and continued by W.G. Good.  The collection comprises all the major works in the artist’s canon and is the most comprehensive collection of Beardsley’s printed works ever assembled.  Exploring the outlandish, the comical, the stylish and the erotic, Beardsley’s distinctive style is instantly recognisable.

This incredible collection also forms the basis for an Aubrey Beardsley exhibition, displaying Beardsley’s most important illustrated books, alongside earlier works, books from the artist’s own library, rare titles relating to the Decadent and Aesthetic movements, unexpurgated proofs, drawings and other collectable works.  Despite commencement of the collecting beginning over one hundred years ago, the books remain in exceptional condition.

Beardsley’s masterpiece of illustration Le Morte d’Arthur is one of the highlights of the collection (with almost a whole cabinet dedicated to it in the actual Aubrey Beardsley exhibition) and is present in several editions, including the first, special edition of 300 copies only.

Beardsley's rendering of the Arthurian legend reflects both the neoclassical tradition at the heart of the Pre-Raphaelite and the Arts & Crafts movements, and the emerging spirit of the Decadent movement to create a stunning visual and tactile work.

Also part of the Aubrey Beardsley exhibition will be an extremely rare first English edition of Oscar Wilde’s Salome, from W.G. Good’s library.  Wilde himself makes a cameo in several of Beardsley’s gorgeous illustrations, which met with the author’s approval.

The last great work undertaken by Beardsley was to be an illustrated edition of Ben Jonson’s 17th-century satirical work Volpone, or The Fox.  Initially intended to have 25 designs by the artist, only one full-page illustration was completed as Beardsley’s health deteriorated.  'Volpone Adoring his Treasure' was used as the frontispiece for the edition, and is widely considered one of the artist's greatest works.  Beardsley himself called it ‘one of the strongest things I have ever done’.

The creators of the Aubrey Beardsley exhibition

Rainforth Armitage Walker (born 1886) developed an interest in the then recently deceased artist Aubrey Beardsley.  He became a passionate collector of Beardsley’s works, studying them in detail order to expose the many forgeries that were appearing in the early 20th century.  Walker’s collection of the artist’s drawings formed the basis of the National Gallery’s 1923-24 Beardsley exhibition.

As his health deteriorated in the 1950s, Walker passed custodial ownership of his Beardsley collection to his friend and fellow collector W. G. Good, who developed the collection further, with the expanded collection contributing to the V&A 1966 Beardsley exhibition.  The result of Walker and Good’s curatorial and bibliographical efforts is a collection of Beardsley’s art in print without equal.

"The Walker-Good collection provides an exceptional opportunity to experience the full scope of Aubrey Beardsley’s all-too-short career as an illustrator and artist, from his earliest works when he was still at school through to the final, unfinished works showcasing the evolution of an epic ambition and imagination." Bernard Shapero, CEO of Shapero Rare Books

The Aubrey Beardsley exhibition opens its doors on Thursday 13th May

Reopening 12th April

From Monday 12th April, the doors to our bookshops and galleries at 105 and 106 New Bond Street will be open once more, in line with the easing of lockdown restrictions here in the UK.

We are delighted to be able to welcome back book, print and art collectors alike, and look forward to meeting new as well as familiar faces in the coming weeks and months.

For those of you who can’t make it into town, or who live abroad or for those currently shielding, our online shop will be operating with the same level of service and speed you’ve come to expect over the past year.

Islamic & Near East: A New Department

We are delighted to announce the launch of our new Islamic department, headed by specialist Roxana Kashani.

Roxana joins Shapero after ten years in the auction world, and she looks forward to broadening our collections of books from the Arabic, Ottoman, Persian and Indian worlds.  Her main area of expertise is manuscripts from the Near East, ranging from early Andalusian Quran leaves of the 10th century to Qajar Persian illuminated codices of the 19th century. As well as manuscripts, Roxana has a keen interest in early printing in the Islamic world, including typeset presses in the West and provincial and early lithography in the Middle East and India.

Roxana is able to assist with valuations and is on hand to offer guidance to customers interested in this somewhat complex collecting area. She would also be delighted to advise customers about the development and growth of their private libraries and collections focused on the Islamic World.

By way of introduction, we arranged a short (digital) interview with Roxana:

How did you find your way into rare books?

After an internship in the prints and drawings archive of a museum, I realised my dreams of curatorship were misplaced and the reality of archives disappointing. My passion was antiquarian books, so I did another internship for the ABA (as a porter at Chelsea Book Fair) and knew that was where I wanted to be; the contacts I made at that fair landed me my first job as a junior cataloguer in the book department of a London auction house.

Why Islamic books?

The answer is very simple – I could read them! My Iranian heritage also connected me to this area, so it felt like a very natural progression.

Have you travelled much in the region?

I have travelled the length and breadth of Iran and have been to Bahrain, Oman and the UAE, having lived in Dubai for a few years. I have also travelled through Morocco and Turkey, but there is still much to explore!

What is the most amazing book you've ever encountered?

That is a very difficult question to answer! Although I’ve had the privilege of handling some breath-taking manuscripts around the world, collections at the Aga Khan and Chester Beatty to name a few, the Book of Kells is engrained in my mind as one of the most incredible books I have ever seen. 

Any advice for budding young collectors?

It can take decades to refine a collection, try to keep an open mind when forming one. You never know in which direction it might take you further down the line!   

If you had to choose one book currently on the shelves at Shapero to add to your own collection, what would that be?

Bruin’s trans-Asian expedition Reizen over Moskovië door Persië en Indië (Amsterdam, 1714 - 93888). It’s such a beautiful copy and I love the plates of Persia.

Last but not least, what does an Islamic book specialist read – what is your desert island book choice? 

When I’m not reading articles on Islamic Art or related exhibition catalogues, I’m probably reading modern fiction. I’ve just started Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens – so far so good, but I’m a hopeless romantic at heart so my desert island book would have to be Wuthering Heights: ‘He’s more myself than I am’, gets me every time.

Whatever the Tier, We’re Still Here

Firstly, from everyone at Shapero Rare BooksShapero Gallery and Shapero Modern, we would like to wish you a Happy New Year!

Secondly, whatever the Tier might be, we are still open online for all your book buying needs. Our online shop, which is updated daily with rare books and first editions, will be operating as usual with shipping worldwide from our HQ on the first floor of 106 New Bond Street.

All of our specialists, most of whom are working from home for the foreseeable future are contactable via email or phone. Don't hesitate to get in touch with us if you're looking for a single book, or for someone to curate an entire library or even if you’d just like to wax lyrical about fine bindings or early dustjackets (who doesn't?)

New Emporium Opens on Bond Street

2020 has seen an exciting period of expansion for Shapero Rare Books and Shapero Gallery, moving into two vast new spaces on New Bond Street, as well as a new ground-floor gallery on Maddox Street for Shapero Modern. In addition to a suite of offices solely for Rare Books, New Bond Street will also house an exciting new Emporium, where a cornucopia of incredible objects come together under one roof.

The Shapero Emporium at 105 New Bond Street sees works from Shapero Rare Books, Shapero Gallery and Shapero Modern brought together and displayed alongside carefully selected pieces from majolica specialist Justin Raccanello, BBC 1 Antiques Roadshow furniture dealer Lennox Cato, leading Islamic and Indian gallery Kent Antiques, antique Arms and Armour specialist Peter Finer, and furniture dealer Thomas Colbourn & Sons, curated by renowned architectural designer Malcolm Winyard.

The six galleries bring together objects dating back centuries, from across the globe, in a fascinating and exciting meeting of cultures that create a truly varied and artistic Emporium.

The Emporium will be open Monday - Sunday: 10am - 6pm

Good Icons: An Online Exhibition

Good Icons installed at 106 New Bond Street

Shapero Rare Books and Shapero Modern are proud to unveil an online exhibition of works by the renowned contemporary portrait artist Lorna May Wadsworth, the artist in residence for the Amazon Prime series Good Omens.

The exhibition, originally installed in both the Bookshop and our Gallery, features portraits of the iconic author Neil Gaiman, as well as works inspired by the adaptation of both his and Terry Pratchett’s book, Good Omens.

From a life-size rendering of the author’s head suspended in layers of sun-bleached wax, crafted upon a piece of prehistoric bog oak, to portraits of the angel Aziraphale and the demon Crowley, the exhibition is a must for art and book lovers alike.

The exhibition also features a limited edition print signed by Gaiman and Wadsworth, alongside a signed illustrated 125 page retrospective catalogue. Get in touch to order either.

'Big Neil' installed at Shapero Modern
Neil Gaiman's signature beneath the hand gilded title on the limited edition print.
Good Icons installed at 106 New Bond Street.
Study for the Bog Oak Book.
Signed Lorna May Wadsworth Retrospective Catalogue.
Artworks on the shelves at 106 New Bond Street

It’s Business As Usual

We will be open for business as usual online whilst the doors to our Bookshop and Gallery at 106 New Bond Street and Shapero Modern’s Gallery at 41-43 Maddox Street are temporarily closed due to the lockdown in England which begins on Thursday 5th November.

You can shop at shapero.com as normal, or contact a bookseller or Shapero Modern's Gallery Director.

In the meantime, our seasonal gift catalogues will be published in the very near future and we will continue to ship worldwide, with click-and-collect available by appointment.

Follow our Instagram account for uplifting illustrations, beautiful bindings, gift ideas and more in the run up to Christmas.

Art Exhibition: The Book of Neil Gaiman by Lorna May Wadsworth

Lorna May Wadsworth installs striking portraits of Neil Gaiman at Shapero Rare Books and Shapero Modern

Big Neil at Shapero Modern

Friday 30th October – Friday 13th November 2020

Shapero Modern, 41-43 Maddox Street, London, W1S 2PD

Shapero Rare Books, 106 New Bond Street, London, W1S 1DN

DUE TO THE UK LOCKDOWN, PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS EXHIBITION HAS NOW MOVED ONLINE

Renowned contemporary artist Lorna May Wadsworth (artist in residence for the Amazon Prime series Good Omens) will be exhibiting The Book of Neil Gaiman at Shapero Rare Books located in its new first floor space on New Bond Street and Big Neil at newly opened Shapero Modern in an exciting short-term exhibition.

Wadsworth rose to prominence in the contemporary art world before she had completed her postgraduate course at the prestigious Royal Drawing School, with a series of notable works, including portraits of the Rt. Hon. Lord Blunkett and the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rt. Hon. Lord Williams. One of her most acclaimed works, a monumental portrait of the late Margaret Thatcher, was completed from five life sittings. The resultant painting is one of the most commanding and respected formal portraits of a modern British Prime Minister.

The Book of Neil Gaiman, alongside two Good Omens portraits at Shapero Rare Books

Author Neil Gaiman (American Gods, Neverwhere, Coraline), shown in these works at both Shapero spaces, is one of the most treasured storytellers of our time. In Big Neil Wadsworth has captured Gaiman ‘god sized’, in a 2 metre large head, echoing his epic early novel American Gods. In casting Neil as the omnipotent narrator Wadsworth echoes the adoration in which he is held by his fans; an ardent fervour usually associated with rock stars, not those who sit atop the New York Times bestseller list.

Accompanying this, Wadsworth’s portrait The Book of Neil Gaiman is a life-size rendering of the author’s head suspended in layers of sun-bleached wax, crafted upon a piece of prehistoric bog oak which lay forgotten within the cold dark earth for thousands of years. The double-sided portrait, of both the front and back of his head, is manifested within the form of something almost book shaped. It is a piece which seems both ancient relic and other worldly. Indeed, time is contained and condensed within this dark, dense tome which will never open.

The Book of Neil Gaiman at Shapero Rare Books

Also at Shapero Rare Books, Wadsworth will exclusively unveil her preparatory studies which reveal the fascinating progress of developing this technique, inspired by the wax Fayum mummy portraits of the dead.

Wadsworth has always challenged the portrait tradition and a recurrent theme throughout her work is the inversion of the gendered gaze. Highlights from her career include her contemporary interpretation of Leonardo’s Last Supper fresco and her dazzling portraits of such celebrated sitters as actors David Tennant and Sir Derek Jacobi, award winning film maker Richard Curtis and an other former Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Tony Blair.

Shapero Rare Books & Shapero Modern CEO Bernard Shapero with the artist Lorna May Wadsworth

New Year, New Beginnings…

We're moving! After nearly twenty-five years in Saint George Street, the sale of our much-loved building has forced us to find a new home. However, we have been fortunate to find not one but two new spaces in Mayfair for  Shapero Rare Books and for Shapero Modern, our post war and contemporary gallery.

Shapero Rare Books will be headquartered at 106 New Bond Street whilst Shapero Modern is expanding into a stunning ground-floor gallery at 41-43 Maddox Street, both just a stone’s throw from our current building.

We’ll be giving more details in the coming weeks, but the recent celebration of Rosh Hashannah, when we wish our Jewish friends a good and sweet New Year, seemed a particularly appropriate time to be announcing this exciting news.

An update from our CEO Bernard Shapero

I am delighted to be able to announce that following changes in the UK Government's guidelines we are able to reopen our Mayfair Bookshop and Gallery on Monday, 15th June 2020.

If you are planning to visit in the coming weeks I'd recommend that you call in advance.  You don't need an appointment to see us, but in order to ensure social distancing rules are observed, there will be a limit to the number of people in the building at any one time.  Be assured however, that we have disposable gloves and masks, hand gel and wipes on hand to maintain strict hygiene standards at all times.

Alternatively, if your plans don't bring you into central London yet, you can continue to browse the Bookshop and Gallery stock on our website where a wide selection of books, prints and works on paper are on view, ready to be shipped to you directly from Mayfair.

The last few months have been an extremely challenging time, and I hope that you, your family and loved ones have managed to steer a path through the many difficulties that have arisen.  Whilst we all look forward to welcoming you back to St George Street I'd like to take this opportunity to thank you for your continued support.

With best wishes,

Bernard Shapero