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Art exhibition: The Cult of Beauty – Victoria & Albert Museum London

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The exhibition on the art of the Aestheticism in London.

Saturday, 9th April 2011 – David Franchi

12._The_Cult_of_Beauty_2011_-_Copia“The Cult of Beauty: The Aesthetic Movement 1860-1900” is a marvellous exhibition with many visitors, at the V&A Museum, London, ongoing until the next 17th July.

The V&A exhibition is the most wide-ranging ever organised on the Aesthetic Movement in Britain. Amazingly nothing was made before, being the Aesthetic Movement a real British epitome, incarnating the quintessence of the country. It traces the Aestheticism development from the romantic bohemianism of a small avant-garde circle in the 1860s to a cultural phenomenon, finishing with the final Decadent phase at the end of the 19th century.

The Cult of Beauty: The Aesthetic Movement 1860-1900” assembles over 250 objects and for the first time many of the greatest masterpieces in painting together with sculpture, design, furniture and architecture as well as fashion and literature.

The exhibition is organised in a chronological order crossing over the decades from 1860-1900. It is structured in five galleries, opening with the room “Introduction”, which explains the general frame of the British culture in the middle years of the 19th century. The Aestheticism, in fact, was born in the late 19th century in the UK as a reaction to the art and ideas of the Victorian establishment. It was part of the anti-19th century reaction. It had post-Romantic origins, and as such anticipates modernism.

Usually, Aestheticism is associated to the French Symbolism and Decadence, or the Italian Decadentismo, for it represents the same tendencies and may be considered the British version of the same style.

Additionally, the philosophy of Aestheticism formed as a cultural answer to the one of Positivism, another movement born at the beginning of the 19th century determined on science only. The new style mitigated the weight of the rationality and science, emphasising aesthetic values more than socio-political themes. Aestheticism was focused on life experiences; so much as that a certain moment a number of pundits claimed that science was inferior to intuition. Art was considered especially prestigious, but the movement was believed slightly elitist.

5._Alma_Tadema_Chair_-_Copia The second exhibition gallery, “The search for a New Beauty 1860s”, deals with the early ideas of the movement. Between all the styles of the mid- 19th -century, the unambiguous artistic ideal that emerged was the ‘cult of beauty’. Aestheticism brought together the Pre-Raphaelite bohemians like Rossetti, nonconformist figures such as Whistler and the neo –classical painters like Leighton and G. F. Watts. The guru of the style was Oscar Wilde.

An alternative kind of beauty was also created where temper, colour and harmony were more important than the subject. The style spread into all areas of life and many leading producers of furniture, ceramics, metalwork, wallpaper and textiles commissioned prominent designers including Walter Crane and Christopher Dresser. The style was characterised by a widespread use of motifs such as the lily, the sunflower and the peacock feather, drawing on sources as diverse as Ancient Greek art and modern day Japan.

The third gallery, “Art for Art’s Sake 1860s-80s”, deals with the adulthood of the movement. The slogan ‘Art for Art’s Sake’, coming from the French ‘L’art pour l’art’, is still famous today. Aestheticism created an unprecedented public fascination in the lives of artists. The V&A exhibition explores the stunning selection of artists in the group such as William Morris, James McNeill Whistler, Frederic Leighton, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Edward Burne-Jones and Oscar Wilde.

However, for Aestheticism the pleasure of beautiful items and art were above any other thing. Therefore, it was the first artistic movement to inspire a whole lifestyle. Besides, it affected many kind of themes including design, literature, fine art, the decorative arts, and interior design.

Sir Mark Jones, Director of the V&A, said: “Art as important for its own sake, beauty to be valued for itself alone – the ideas proposed by the Aesthetic Movement are current again today. This exhibition, drawn from a wide range of public and private collections, is the richest and most complete picture of this extraordinary movement yet.”

2._Leighton_Sluggard_-_CopiaIn the fourth gallery, “Beautiful people & Aesthetic houses 1870s- 90s”, the focus is on interior design, architecture and clothes. The immense success of the Grosvenor Gallery, opened in 1877 by Sir Coutts Lindsay to show the work of his Aesthetic friends, revealed the movement was fashionable and much requested both by the elite and the common people. As well as commissioning Aesthetic paintings and portraits, its followers approached in the same way the adornment of their homes and even the design of their clothes.

The last room, “Late- flowering beauty, 1880s-90s”, focus on the last period of the movement. Many artists were still active in those years, even if it was thought the opposite. Satire and parody were made about Aestheticism and Britain was caught by the style.

The Cult of Beauty: The Aesthetic Movement 1860-1900” has been organised in collaboration with the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. After London, it will travel to the Musée D’Orsay in Paris in September 2011 before travelling to the Young Museum (part of the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco), opening in February 2012.

The exhibition has been sponsored by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, with further support from Liberty. Curators, Stephen Calloway, lead curator for the V&A and Dr. Lynn Federle Orr, lead curator for the Fine arts Museum of San Francisco.

 This exhibition has a real British taste. It is unmissable and it couldn’t be different because Aestheticism involved the whole society and its culture and art.

Published for: www.italoeuropeo.com

Direct link: http://www.italoeuropeo.com/entertaiment/arts/the-exhibition-on-the-art-of-the-aestheticism-in-london./


Written by davidfranchi

April 9, 2011 at 8:22 pm

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