Aestheticism (also the Aesthetic Movement) is an intellectual and art movement supporting the emphasis of aesthetic values more than social-political themes for literature, fine art, music and other arts. This meant that art from this particular movement focused more on being beautiful rather than having a deeper meaning — "art for art's sake". It was particularly prominent in Europe during the 19th century, supported by notable figures such as Walter Pater and Oscar Wilde, but contemporary critics are also associated with the movement, such as Harold Bloom, who has recently argued against projecting social and political ideology onto literary works, which he believes has been a growing problem in humanities departments over the 20th century.
In the 19th century, it was related to other movements such as symbolism or decadence represented in France, or decadentismo represented in Italy, and may be considered the British version of the same style.
The British decadent writers were much influenced by the Oxford professor Walter Pater and his essays published during 1867–68, in which he stated that life had to be lived intensely, with an ideal of beauty. His text Studies in the History of the Renaissance (1873) was very well regarded by art-oriented young men of the late 19th century. Writers of the Decadent movement used the slogan "Art for Art's Sake" (L'art pour l'art), the origin of which is debated. Some claim that it was invented by the philosopher Victor Cousin, although Angela Leighton in the publication On Form: Poetry, Aestheticism and the Legacy of a Word (2007) notes that the phrase was used by Benjamin Constant as early as 1804. It is generally accepted to have been promoted by Théophile Gautier in France, who interpreted the phrase to suggest that there was not any real association between art and morality.
The artists and writers of Aesthetic style tended to profess that the Arts should provide refined sensuous pleasure, rather than convey moral or sentimental messages. As a consequence, they did not accept John Ruskin, Matthew Arnold, and George MacDonald's conception of art as something moral or useful, "Art for truth's sake". Instead, they believed that Art did not have any didactic purpose; it only needed to be beautiful. The Aesthetes developed a cult of beauty, which they considered the basic factor of art. Life should copy Art, they asserted. They considered nature as crude and lacking in design when compared to art. The main characteristics of the style were: suggestion rather than statement, sensuality, great use of symbols, and synaesthetic/Ideasthetic effects—that is, correspondence between words, colours and music. Music was used to establish mood.
Predecessors of the Aesthetics included John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley, and some of the Pre-Raphaelites who themselves were a legacy of the Romantic spirit. There are a few significant continuities between the Pre-Raphaelite philosophy and that of the Aesthetes: Dedication to the idea of ‘Art for Art’s Sake’; admiration of, and constant striving for, beauty; escapism through visual and literary arts; craftsmanship that is both careful and self-conscious; mutual interest in merging the arts of various media. This final idea is promoted in the poem L’Art by Théophile Gautier, who compared the poet to the sculptor and painter. Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Edward Burne-Jones are most strongly associated with Aestheticism. However, their approach to Aestheticism did not share the creed of ‘Art for Art’s Sake’ but rather “a spirited reassertion of those principles of colour, beauty, love, and cleanness that the drab, agitated, discouraging world of the mid-nineteenth century needed so much.” This reassertion of beauty in a drab world also connects to Pre-Raphaelite escapism in art and poetry.
In Britain the best representatives were Oscar Wilde and Algernon Charles Swinburne, both influenced by the French Symbolists, and James McNeill Whistler and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. The style and these poets were satirised by Gilbert and Sullivan's comic opera Patience and other works, such as F. C. Burnand's drama The Colonel, and in comic magazines such as Punch, particularly in works by George Du Maurier.
Compton Mackenzie's novel Sinister Street makes use of the type as a phase through which the protagonist passes as he is influenced by older, decadent individuals. The novels of Evelyn Waugh, who was a young participant of aesthete society at Oxford, describe the aesthetes mostly satirically, but also as a former participant. Some names associated with this assemblage are Robert Byron, Evelyn Waugh, Harold Acton, Nancy Mitford, A.E. Housman and Anthony Powell.
Artists associated with the Aesthetic style include Simeon Solomon, James McNeill Whistler, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and Aubrey Beardsley. Although the work of Edward Burne-Jones was exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery which promoted the movement, it also contains narrative and conveys moral or sentimental messages hence it falls outside the given definition.
The primary element of Decorative Art is utility. The maxim "art for art's sake", identifying art or beauty as the primary element in other branches of the Aesthetic Movement, especially fine art, cannot apply in this context. Decorative art must first have utility, but may also be beautiful. Decorative art is dissociated from fine art.
Important elements of the Aesthetic Movement have been identified as Reform and Eastern Art. The Government Schools of Design were founded from 1837 onwards in order to improve the design of British goods. Following the Great Exhibition of 1851 efforts were intensified and Oriental objects purchased for the schools teaching collections. Owen Jones, architect and Orientalist was requested to set out key principles of design and these became not only the basis of the schools teaching but also the propositions which preface The Grammar of Ornament (1856), which is still regarded as the finest systematic study or practical sourcebook of historic world ornament.
Jones identified the need for a new and modern style that would meet the requirements of the modern world, rather than the continual re-cycling of historic styles, but saw no reason to reject the lessons of the past. Christopher Dresser, a student and later Professor at the school worked with Owen Jones on The Grammar of Ornament, as well as on the 1863 decoration of The Oriental Courts (Chinese, Japanese, and Indian) at the South Kensington Museum, advanced the search for a new style with his two publications The Art of Decorative Design 1862, and Principles of Design 1873.
Production of Aesthetic style furniture was limited to approximately the late 19th century. Aesthetic style furniture is characterized by several common themes:
Ebonized furniture means that the wood is painted or stained to a black ebony finish. The furniture is sometimes completely ebony-colored. More often however, there is gilding added to the carved surfaces of the feathers or stylized flowers that adorn the furniture.
As aesthetic movement decor was similar to the corresponding writing style in that it was about sensuality and nature, nature themes often appear on the furniture. A typical aesthetic feature is the gilded carved flower, or the stylized peacock feather. Colored paintings of birds or flowers are often seen. Non-ebonized aesthetic movement furniture may have realistic-looking three-dimensional-like renditions of birds or flowers carved into the wood.
Contrasting with the ebonized-gilt furniture is use of blue and white for porcelain and china. Similar themes of peacock feathers and nature would be used in blue and white tones on dinnerware and other crockery. The blue and white design was also popular on square porcelain tiles. It is reported that Oscar Wilde used aesthetic decorations during his youth. This aspect of the movement was also satirised by Punch magazine and in Patience.
In 1882 Oscar Wilde visited Canada, where he toured the town of Woodstock, Ontario and gave a lecture on May 29 titled "The House Beautiful". This particular lecture featured the early Aesthetic art movement, also known as the "Ornamental Aesthetic" art style, where local flora and fauna were celebrated as beautiful and textured, layered ceilings were popular. An example of this can be seen in Annandale National Historic Site, located in Tillsonburg, Ontario, Canada. The house was built in 1880 and decorated by Mary Ann Tillson, who happened to attend Oscar Wilde's lecture in Woodstock, and was influenced by it. Since the Aesthetic art movement was only prevalent from about 1880 until about 1890, there are not many surviving examples of this particular stylem but one such example is 18 Stafford Terrace, London, which provides an insight into how the middle classes interpreted the principles of Aesthetics.
Another Beauty (Polish: W cudzym pięknie) is a 1998 memoir by the Polish poet Adam Zagajewski. It focuses on Zagajewski's student years and early time as a poet in Kraków in the 1960s and 1970s, and his involvement with the artist group "Now", leaving aestheticism behind to focus on contemporary politics and clash with communist authorities.Daniel Cottier
Daniel Cottier (1838–1891) was an artist and designer born in Anderston, Glasgow, Scotland. His work was said to be influenced by the writing of John Ruskin, the paintings of the Dante Gabriel Rossetti and the work of William Morris. He painted allegorical figures in the Pre-Raphaelite style of Rossetti and Sir Edward Burne-Jones. Cottier is considered to be an important influence on Louis Comfort Tiffany and also is credited with introducing the Aesthetic movement to America and Australia.
Cottier was interested in glass, furniture, ceramic manufacture, and interior design. His art furnishing business opened branches in Edinburgh, Glasgow and London between 1864 and 1869, and then in 1873 he opened more branches in New York, Sydney and Melbourne. In the United States he is seen as a 'harbinger of aestheticism….and a profound influence on American decoration'. And the same can be said of Scotland where he also exported the Aesthetic Movement to Scotland via his many professional and business contacts which he had made during his training and early career in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen. So, by the time he moved to London in 1869, Cottier was already part of an influential and avart-garde group of designers—many of them also expatriate Scots—who were to establish the Aesthetic Movement in England.Formalism (art)
In art history, formalism is the study of art by analyzing and comparing form and style. Its discussion also includes the way objects are made and their purely visual or material aspects. In painting, formalism emphasizes compositional elements such as color, line, shape, texture, and other perceptual aspects rather than content, meaning, or the historical and social context. At its extreme, formalism in art history posits that everything necessary to comprehending a work of art is contained within the work of art. The context of the work, including the reason for its creation, the historical background, and the life of the artist, that is, its conceptual aspect is considered to be external to the artistic medium itself, and therefore of secondary importance.Gérard de Lacaze-Duthiers
Gérard de Lacaze-Duthiers (26 January 1876 – 3 May 1958) was a French writer, art critic, pacifist and anarchist.
Lacaze-Duthiers, an art critic for the Symbolist review journal La Plume, was influenced by Oscar Wilde, Nietzsche and Max Stirner. His (1906) L'Ideal Humain de l'Art helped found the 'Artistocracy' movement - a movement advocating life in the service of art. His ideal was an anti-elitist aestheticism: "All men should be artists". Together with André Colomer and Manuel Devaldes, he founded L'Action d'Art, an anarchist literary journal, in 1913.He was a contributor to the Anarchist Encyclopedia. After World War II he contributed to the journal L'Unique.Harvard Aesthetes
The Harvard Aesthetes was a group of poets attending Harvard University in a period roughly between 1912 and 1919. It includes:
Malcolm Cowley (1898–1989)
E. E. Cummings (1894–1962)
Arthur William Wilson - AKA Winslow Wilson. Pico Miran, Tex Wilson (1892-1974)
S. Foster Damon (1893–1971)
John Dos Passos (1896–1970)
Robert Hillyer (1895–1961)
John Brooks Wheelwright (1897–1940)John Roddam Spencer Stanhope
John Roddam Spencer Stanhope (20 January 1829 — 2 August 1908) is an English artist associated with Edward Burne-Jones and George Frederic Watts and often regarded as a second-wave pre-Raphaelite. His work is also studied within the context of Aestheticism and British Symbolism. As a painter, Stanhope worked in oil, watercolor, fresco, and mixed media. His subject matter was mythological, allegorical, biblical, and contemporary. Stanhope was born in Yorkshire, England, and died in Florence, Italy. He was the uncle and teacher of the painter Evelyn De Morgan.Laughing All the While
Laughing All the While is the second studio album by Echo Orbiter. It was released on Looking Glass Workshop in 2000. Receiving positive reviews, the album has been described as chaotic and orchestral brand of pop reflecting the band's growing creative confidence, and "a wondrous, melody-packed celebration of unfettered creativity." The band has described the process and product as L'art pour l'art in the style of Aestheticism and the Decadent Movement. Following a litany of production and logistical difficulties with creating and releasing the album, along with its lyrical themes, the album was viewed as a reflection of the ills of insanity.List of art movements
See Art periods for a chronological list.This is a list of art movements in alphabetical order. These terms, helpful for curricula or anthologies, evolved over time to group artists who are often loosely related. Some of these movements were defined by the members themselves, while other terms emerged decades or centuries after the periods in question.Modernismo
Modernismo is a literary movement that took place primarily during the end of the Nineteenth and early Twentieth-century in Spanish-America, best exemplified by Rubén Darío who is also known as the father of Modernismo. The term Modernismo specifically refers to the literary movement that took place primarily in poetry. This literary movement began in 1888 after the publication of Rubén Darío's Azul. The movement died around 1920, four years after the death of Rubén Darío. The book, Azul, gave Modernismo a new meaning. In Aspects of Spanish-American Literature, the author writes (1963),“We must make art the basic element in our culture; the appreciation of beauty is a promise that we will arrive at the understanding of justice...” (pg. 35).Modernismo influences the meaning behind words and the impact of poetry on culture. Modernismo, in its simplest form, is finding the beauty and advances within the language and rhythm of literary works.
Other notable exponents are Leopoldo Lugones, José Asunción Silva, Julio Herrera y Reissig, Julián del Casal, Manuel González Prada, Aurora Cáceres, Delmira Agustini, Manuel Díaz Rodríguez and José Martí. It is a recapitulation and blending of three European currents: Romanticism, Symbolism and especially Parnassianism. Inner passions, visions, harmonies and rhythms are expressed in a rich, highly stylized verbal music. This movement was of great influence in the whole Hispanic world (including the Philippines), finding a temporary vogue also among the Generation of '98 in Spain, which posited various reactions to its perceived aestheticism.Monna Vanna (painting)
Monna Vanna is an 1866 oil on canvas painting (88.9 × 86.4 cm) by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. It was acquired by the collector William Henry Blackmore and later entered the collection of George Rae, one of Rossetti's patrons. It later passed from Rae to the joint ownership of Arthur Du Cros and Otto Beit and it was purchased from them by the Tate Gallery in 1916 via the NACF – it is now in the collection of Tate Britain in London.It shows a frontal half-length portrait of Rossetti's main model Alexa Wilding, with her head turned to the right of the frame. She is shown with pale, luminous and delicate skin (fitting in with the aestheticism of the time) and a hard penetrating gaze. She holds a feather fan over her right shoulder as well wearing many kinds of jewellery, picked by the painter to show off his painterly skill – a red coral necklace, rings and earrings. In her hair are two spiral shell-shaped hairclips, accessories particularly loved by Rossetti and used here to emphasize the painting's circular composition. Rossetti's own opinion of the painting was that it was "probably the most effective as a room decoration that I have ever painted".Oscar Wilde
Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde (16 October 1854 – 30 November 1900) was an Irish poet and playwright. After writing in different forms throughout the 1880s, he became one of London's most popular playwrights in the early 1890s. He is best remembered for his epigrams and plays, his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, and the circumstances of his criminal conviction for "gross indecency", imprisonment, and early death at age 46.
Wilde's parents were successful Anglo-Irish intellectuals in Dublin. Their son became fluent in French and German early in life. At university, Wilde read Greats; he proved himself to be an outstanding classicist, first at Trinity College Dublin, then at Oxford. He became known for his involvement in the rising philosophy of aestheticism, led by two of his tutors, Walter Pater and John Ruskin. After university, Wilde moved to London into fashionable cultural and social circles.
As a spokesman for aestheticism, he tried his hand at various literary activities: he published a book of poems, lectured in the United States and Canada on the new "English Renaissance in Art" and interior decoration, and then returned to London where he worked prolifically as a journalist. Known for his biting wit, flamboyant dress and glittering conversational skill, Wilde became one of the best-known personalities of his day. At the turn of the 1890s, he refined his ideas about the supremacy of art in a series of dialogues and essays, and incorporated themes of decadence, duplicity, and beauty into what would be his only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890). The opportunity to construct aesthetic details precisely, and combine them with larger social themes, drew Wilde to write drama. He wrote Salome (1891) in French while in Paris but it was refused a licence for England due to an absolute prohibition on the portrayal of Biblical subjects on the English stage. Unperturbed, Wilde produced four society comedies in the early 1890s, which made him one of the most successful playwrights of late-Victorian London.
At the height of his fame and success, while The Importance of Being Earnest (1895) was still being performed in London, Wilde had the Marquess of Queensberry prosecuted for criminal libel. The Marquess was the father of Wilde's lover, Lord Alfred Douglas. The libel trial unearthed evidence that caused Wilde to drop his charges and led to his own arrest and trial for gross indecency with men. After two more trials he was convicted and sentenced to two years' hard labour, the maximum penalty, and was jailed from 1895 to 1897. During his last year in prison, he wrote De Profundis (published posthumously in 1905), a long letter which discusses his spiritual journey through his trials, forming a dark counterpoint to his earlier philosophy of pleasure. On his release, he left immediately for France, never to return to Ireland or Britain. There he wrote his last work, The Ballad of Reading Gaol (1898), a long poem commemorating the harsh rhythms of prison life. He died destitute in Paris at the age of 46.Poetic realism
Poetic realism was a film movement in France of the 1930s. More a tendency than a movement, poetic realism is not strongly unified like Soviet montage or French Impressionism but were individuals who created this lyrical style. Its leading filmmakers were Pierre Chenal, Jean Vigo, Julien Duvivier, Marcel Carné, and, perhaps the movement's most significant director, Jean Renoir. Renoir made a wide variety of films some influenced by the leftist Popular Front group and even a lyrical short feature film. Frequent stars of these films were Jean Gabin, Michel Simon, Simone Signoret, and Michèle Morgan.
Poetic realism films are "recreated realism", stylised and studio-bound, rather than approaching the "socio-realism of the documentary". They usually have a fatalistic view of life with their characters living on the margins of society, either as unemployed members of the working class or as criminals. After a life of disappointment, the characters get a last chance at love but are ultimately disappointed again and the films frequently end with disillusionment or death. The overall tone often resembles nostalgia and bitterness. They are "poetic" because of a heightened aestheticism that sometimes draws attention to the representational aspects of the films. Though these films were weak in the production sector, French cinema did create a high proportion of influential films largely due to the talented people in the industry in the 1930s who were working on them. The most popular set designer was Lazare Meerson. Composers who worked on these films included Georges Auric, Arthur Honegger, Joseph Kosma, and Maurice Jaubert. Screenwriters who contributed to many of the films included Charles Spaak and Jacques Prévert. The movement had a significant impact on later film movements, in particular Italian neorealism (many of the neorealists, most notably Luchino Visconti, worked with poetic realist directors before starting their own careers as film critics and directors) and the French New Wave.Select Conversations with an Uncle
Select Conversations with an Uncle, published in 1895, was H.G. Wells's first literary publication in book form. It consists of reports of twelve conversations between a fictional witty uncle who has returned to London from South Africa with "a certain affluence," as well as two other conversations (one on aestheticism that takes place in a train, titled "A Misunderstood Artist," and another on physiognomy, titled "The Man with a Nose").Sven Stolpe
Sven Stolpe (24 August 1905 in Stockholm – 26 August 1996 in Filipstad) was a Swedish writer, translator, journalist, literary scholar and critic. His brother was Herman Stolpe. Sven Stolpe was active in Swedish literary and intellectual discussion for most of his life. In the early 1930s, he argued for internationalism and argued against aestheticism, but he was also part of the Oxford Group which claimed the necessity of "moral and spiritual re-armament" and later in life, in 1947, he became a Catholic. Among his literary production is a dissertation on Queen Christina of Sweden, who abdicated as a result of her own conversion to Catholicism, which was published in 1959.In 1984, the Belgian biographer Joris Taels published a biography of Stolpe.He is buried in Vadstena cemetery.The Decay of Lying
"The Decay of Lying – An Observation" is an essay by Oscar Wilde included in his collection of essays titled Intentions, published in 1891. This is a significantly revised version of the article that first appeared in the January 1889 issue of The Nineteenth Century.
Wilde presents the essay in a Socratic dialogue between with Vivian and Cyril, two characters named after his own sons. Their conversation, though playful and whimsical, promotes Wilde's view of Romanticism over Realism. Vivian tells Cyril of an article he has been writing called "The Decay Of Lying: A Protest". According to Vivian, the decay of Lying "as an art, a science, and a social pleasure" is responsible for the decline of modern literature, which is excessively concerned with the representation of facts and social reality. He writes, "if something cannot be done to check, or at least to modify, our monstrous worship of facts, Art will become sterile and beauty will pass away from the land." Moreover, Vivian defends the idea that Life imitates Art far more than vice versa. Nature, he argues, is no less an imitation of Art than Life. Vivian also contends that Art is never representative of a time or place: rather, "the highest art rejects the burden of the human spirit [...] She develops purely on her own lines. She is not symbolic of any age." Vivian thus defends Aestheticism and the concept of "art for art's sake". At Cyril's behest, Vivian briefly summarizes the doctrines of the "new aesthetics" in the following terms:
Art never expresses anything but itself.
All bad art comes from returning to Life and Nature, and elevating them into ideals.
Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life. It follows as a corollary that external Nature also imitates Art.
Lying, the telling of beautiful untrue things, is the proper aim of Art.The essay ends with the two characters going outside, as Cyril asked Vivian to do at the beginning of the essay. Vivian finally complies, saying that twilight nature's "chief use" may be to "illustrate quotations from the poets."
As Michèle Mendelssohn points out, "in an era when sociology was still in its infancy, psychology wasn’t yet a discipline, and theories of performativity were still a long way off, Wilde's essay touched on a profound truth about human behaviour in social situations. The laws of etiquette governing polite society were, in fact, a mask. Tact was merely an elaborate art of impression management."The Picture of Dorian Gray
The Picture of Dorian Gray is a Gothic and philosophical novel by Oscar Wilde, first published complete in the July 1890 issue of Lippincott's Monthly Magazine. Fearing the story was indecent, the magazine's editor deleted roughly five hundred words before publication without Wilde's knowledge. Despite that censorship, The Picture of Dorian Gray offended the moral sensibilities of British book reviewers, some of whom said that Oscar Wilde merited prosecution for violating the laws guarding public morality. In response, Wilde aggressively defended his novel and art in correspondence with the British press, although he personally made excisions of some of the most controversial material when revising and lengthening the story for book publication the following year.
The longer and revised version of The Picture of Dorian Gray published in book form in 1891 featured an aphoristic preface—a defence of the artist's rights and of art for art's sake—based in part on his press defences of the novel the previous year. The content, style, and presentation of the preface made it famous in its own right, as a literary and artistic manifesto. In April 1891, the publishing firm of Ward, Lock and Company, who had distributed the shorter, more inflammatory, magazine version in England the previous year, published the revised version of The Picture of Dorian Gray.The only novel written by Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray exists in several versions: the 1890 magazine edition (in 13 chapters), with important material deleted before publication by the magazine's editor, J. M. Stoddart; the "uncensored" version submitted to Lippincott's Monthly Magazine for publication (also in 13 chapters), with all of Wilde's original material intact, first published in 2011 by Harvard University Press; and the 1891 book edition (in 20 chapters). As literature of the 19th century, The Picture of Dorian Gray "pivots on a gothic plot device" with strong themes interpreted from Faust.Wolfgang Fritz Haug
Wolfgang Fritz Haug (born March 23, 1936 in Esslingen am Neckar, Württemberg) was from 1979 till his retirement in 2001 professor of philosophy at the Free University Berlin, where he had also studied romance languages and religious studies and taken his PhD (in 1966 on the topic of "Jean-Paul Sartre and the construction of absurdity").Yuly Aykhenvald
Yuly Isayevich Aykhenvald, Aikhenvald, or Eichenwald (Russian: Ю́лий Иса́евич Айхенва́льд; 24 January 1872 – 17 December 1928) was a Russian Jewish literary critic who developed a native brand of Aestheticism. Russian-American author Vladimir Nabokov called Aykhenvald "a Russian version of Walter Pater".Émaux et Camées
Émaux et Camées (Enamels and Cameos) is a collection of poetry by the French poet Théophile Gautier.
Originally published in 1852 with 18 poems, Émaux et camées grew to include 37 poems in later editions. Whereas Gautier's earlier work was more concerned with romantic aestheticism, the formalism of this last collection is a point of reference for the arrival of Parnassianism.