We saw this langourous, dream-filled show at the Legion of Honor Friday at the height of an emphatic rainstorm. The aesthetic movement in England in the 1860’s and beyond blended the “Art for Art’s Sake” philosophy with a fascination with all things exotic–peacock feathers, Orientalism, idealized bodies, diaphanous lounging (see Midsummer above)–and in all things: furnishings, decorative arts, fabrics, wallpapers, and objets d’art. Or as The Telegraph opined at the show’s opening at the Victoria and Albert Museum last summer in London~
“Discarding narrative, minimising perspective, and eliminating detail, British art in the decades to come would draw closer than it had ever come to architecture <and> design …. This is what the Aesthetic Movement is all about.”
Also, think foppery, sunflowers, decadence, and velvet dresses or suits (i.e., think Oscar Wilde):
But Wilde is not the only literary type associated with the movement (although he was the most public and flamboyant). The poet Algernon Swinburne and the author Wilkie Collins (Woman in White) were also players. But it is Wilde who crafts the cautionary tale. In The Picture of Dorian Gray, he depicts the delusions of an aesthete (the only things worth pursuing in life are beauty and the fulfillment of the senses) who is ultimately destroyed by his obsession.
The Guardian says it best~
“There was indeed a conscious gloom to a form of art that revelled in love-sick wistfulness and tormented reveries. It eschewed mid-Victorian heartiness and cheeriness. This was a counter culture.”
So here is a little slideshow of some highlights. Note that the startlingly modern patterns you see come from one of the original architects and designers of the movement, Owen Jones~
The exhibit continues to June 17th.
Stay tuned for lomography!