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The Aesthetic Movement Collage

The Aesthetic Movement

Started: 1860

Ended: 1900

The Aesthetic Movement Timeline

Quotes

"Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault. Those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are the cultivated. For these there is hope. They are the elect to whom beautiful things mean only Beauty."
Oscar Wilde
"Art is a goddess of dainty thought, reticent of habit, abjuring all obtrusiveness, purposing in no way to better others. She is, withal selfishly occupied with her own perfection only - having no desire to teach."
James McNeill Whistler
"Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."
William Morris
"Painting is to artists what the verse of Theophile Gautier is to poets: the faultless and secure expression of an exclusive worship of things formally beautiful."
Algernon Charles Swinburne
"The masterpiece should appear as the flower to the painter - perfect in its bud as in its bloom - with no reason to explain it's presence - no mission to fulfill - a joy to the artist, a delusion to the philanthropist - a puzzle to the botanist - an accident of sentiment and alliteration to the literary man."
James McNeill Whistler
"As music is the poetry of sound, so is painting the poetry of sight, and the subject-matter has nothing to do with harmony of sound or of colour."
James McNeill Whistler
"To burn always with this hard, gem-like flame, to maintain this ecstasy, is success in life."
Walter Pater
"Of such wisdom, the poetic passion, the desire of beauty, the love of art for its own sake, has most. For art comes to you proposing frankly to give nothing but the highest quality of your moments as they pass, and simply for these moments sake."
Walter Pater

KEY ARTISTS

James WhistlerJames Whistler
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Dante Gabriel RossettiDante Gabriel Rossetti
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Christopher DresserChristopher Dresser
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Edward Burne-JonesEdward Burne-Jones
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William De MorganWilliam De Morgan
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Albert MooreAlbert Moore
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More Top Artists

"My picture of 'Harmony in Grey and Gold' is an illustration of my meaning - as snow scene with a single black figure and lighted tavern. I care nothing for the past, present, or future of the black figure, placed there because the black was wanted at that spot. All that I know is that my combination of grey and gold is the basis of the picture. Now this is precisely what my friends cannot grasp."

James Whistler Signature

Synopsis

During the mid-19th century, the provocative and sensuous Aesthetic movement threatened to dismantle Britain's fussy, overbearing, and conservative Victorian traditions. More than a fine art movement, Aestheticism penetrated all areas of life - from music and literature to interior design and fashion. At its heart was the desire to create "art for art's sake" and to exalt taste, the pursuit of beauty, and self-expression over moral expectations and restrictive conformity. The freedom of creative expression and sensuality that Aestheticism promoted exhilarated its adherents, but it also made them the object of ridicule among conservative Victorians. Nonetheless, by rejecting art's traditionally didactic obligations and focusing on self-expression, the Aesthetic movement helped set the stage for global, 20th-century modern art.

Key Ideas

Rebelling against Victorian materiality and modern industrialism (particularly what they criticized as the impoverished and repetitive designs of consumer products created cheaply by "soulless" machines), Aesthetic artists placed a premium on quality craftsmanship in the creation of all art. Some even revived pre-industrial techniques in the process.
Aesthetic artists touted the adage "art for art's sake," divorcing art from its traditional obligation to convey a moral or socio-political message. Instead, they focused on exploring color, form, and composition in the pursuit of beauty.
Distinct from the Victorian preference for fussy decor, curvaceous forms, and abundant detail, Aesthetic art is characterized by subdued colors, geometric designs, and simplified linear forms. The movement took as its primary sources of inspiration Pre-Raphaelite painting's of flaming red haired beauties, medieval geometric designs, and Japanese motifs and aesthetics.
The Aesthetic Movement maintained that art should not be confined to painting, sculpture, and architecture, but should be a part of everyday life. To this end, Aestheticism embraced not only the "high" arts, but also ceramics, metalwork, fashion, furniture-making, and interior design. Many Aesthetes, most notably Oscar Wilde, even adopted public personas through which they lived according to Aesthetic principles.

Beginnings

The Aesthetic Movement Image

The Great Exhibition of 1851 marked a turning point for the visual arts in Britain. Although the event showcased important recent innovations, including the new medium of photography, much of the work on display conformed to the fussy and shallow design style of the Victorian era. Worse still was the mechanization of the creation process, which according to famous critic John Ruskin, meant the dehumanization of design. These predictable, repetitive designs coupled with the strict Victorian standards for art that placed greater importance on the moral message conveyed than quality of the work fostered a stifling environment from which many artists were desperate to escape.

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Cite this page

Content compiled and written by Anna Souter

Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Sandy McCain

" Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Anna Souter
Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Sandy McCain
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