Mr. Arthur Balfour wishing he had been born in a simpler age, 1907

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Each time he finished a new collection of drawings, Max Beerbohm (1872-1956) brought them to the Carfax Gallery for a public exhibition. Located on Bury Street in the fashionable St James district of London, Carfax & Co. was one of the most distinguished and progressive galleries of its day. Founded in 1898, the room was managed by More Adey (1858-1942) and Robbie Ross (1869-1918), both members of Oscar Wilde’s circle of friends. Beerbohm’s exhibitions were mounted in 1901, 1904, 1907 and 1908.

On May 4, 1907, an exhibition review in The Athenaeum declared, “Mr. Beerbohm’s exhibition at the Carfax Gallery is an unalloyed delight. The artist has the blessed gift of seeing the grey and monotonous people by whom we are surrounded as full of an outrageous variety; and were the present writer a millionaire, Mr. Beerbohm should be always in his train to reveal the extremes of character, the vortices of strange forces, that hide beneath a life that seems all self-repression.”

“When I draw a man,” Beerbohm wrote to a friend, “I am concerned simply and solely with the physical aspect of him … [But] I see him in a peculiar way: I see all his salient points exaggerated (points of face, figure, port, gesture and vesture), and all his insignificant points proportionately diminished … In the salient points a man’s soul does reveal itself, more or less faintly … It is … when (and only when) my caricatures hit exactly the exteriors of their subjects that they open the interiors, too.” (Letters, 35-6)

Max Beerbohm (1872-1956), Mr. Arthur Balfour Wishing He Had Been Born in a Simpler Age, 1907. Watercolor. Robert H. Taylor Collection (RHT), Rare Books and Special Collections. Gift of Robert H. Taylor, Class of 1930

Max Beerbohm (1872-1956), A Book of Caricatures (London: Methuen & co. [1907]) Rare Books: J. Harlin O’Connell Collection (ExC) Oversize NC1479 .B4q