The Aesthetic Movement

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Phaidon Press, Jun 13, 1996 - Design - 240 pages
Originating from the Greek, aesthetics is the name which has been given since classical times to the study of beauty and the nature of the beautiful. In the second half of the nineteenth century, fuelled by the writings of Walter Pater and Baudelaire and the art of the Pre-Raphaelites, British poets, painters, designers and architects began to turn to aesthetic concerns and to place more emphasis on ornament and on the past. The result was the Aesthetic Movement and a new freedom in all aspects of the fine and decorative arts. In architecture, the dogmatism of Gothic gave way to the charm of Queen Anne. In interiors, heavy Victorian forms were replaced by the lighter, fresher Japanese-inspired shapes and in the graphic arts, innovative methods, coupled with a new approach to form led to the revitalization of illustration and book design.
Believing that beauty should permeate every sphere of life, the Aesthetes' rallying cry was 'Art for Art's Sake'. Oscar Wilde, one of the movement's most characteristic and charismatic members, was heard to complain about the difficulty of 'living up to one's blue and white china' and his flamboyant dress and lifestyle made him one of the most widely known figures of the late nineteenth century. Together with James McNeill Whistler, Aubrey Beardsley and a host of other colourful figures, Wilde felt very strongly about elegance and richness and it was this very coherence of philosophy that held the Aesthetic Movement together and gave it a lasting influence. From the languid figures of Rossetti to the sunflowers of Wilde and the flamboyance of Ellen Terry, Aesthetic motifs cannot be easily forgotten.

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The Aesthetic Movement

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Following their motto "art for art's sake," the aesthetes of England in the 1880s and 1890s had sweeping influence on every aspect of the fine and decorative arts. Lambourne, former head of painting ... Read full review



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About the author (1996)

Lionel Lambourne was Head of Paintings at the Victoria & Albert Museum from 1986 to 1993. He has travelled widely as a curator of exhibitions throughout Great Britain, Germany and Japan. His publications include Utopian Craftsmen (1980) and Victorian Painting (1999), also published by Phaidon.

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