Beardsley was born in Brighton, England, on 21 August 1872, and christened on 24 Oct 1872. His father, Vincent Paul Beardsley (1839–1909), was the son of a tradesman; Vincent had no trade himself, however, and instead relied on a private income from an inheritance that he received from his maternal grandfather when he was twenty-one years of age.
In 1892, Beardsley travelled to Paris, where he discovered the poster art of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and the Parisian fashion for Japanese prints, both of which would be major influences on his own style
Beardsley was the most controversial artist of the Art Nouveau era, renowned for his dark and perverse images and grotesque erotica, which were the main themes of his later work.
Beardsley was a public as well as private eccentric. He said, "I have one aim—the grotesque. If I am not grotesque I am nothing."
Wilde said he had "a face like a silver hatchet, and grass green hair." Beardsley was meticulous about his attire: dove-grey suits, hats, ties; yellow gloves. He would appear at his publisher's in a morning coat and patent leather pumps.
Beardsley converted to Roman Catholicism in March 1897, and would subsequently beg his publisher, Leonard Smithers, to “destroy all copies of Lysistrata and bad drawings... by all that is holy all obscene drawings." Smithers ignored Beardsley’s wishes, and actually continued to sell reproductions as well as forgeries of Beardsley's work.