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Aestheticism was an artistic movement born against Victorian morality and rigidity and which pursued the idea that the individual should live his life intensely, with beauty as an ideal, and act as if his whole life were a work of art.

Aestheticism was an artistic movement that arose against the strict traditions and rules of the Victorian era. In this historical framework, art was considered from the point of view of its obligation as a transmitter of moral or sociopolitical messages. Aestheticism breaks with this whole idea and calls for the artist's freedom of expression against restrictive Victorian conformism.

The heart of aestheticism is "art for art's sake". It is a quest for beauty, sensuality, creativity and an exaltation of good taste. He focused on exploring colour, composition and form to seek beauty above all else. What looked like an artistic movement was, in fact, a revolution in the world of ideas that expanded beyond what was considered art until then.

Aestheticism flooded painting, sculpture, and architecture, but it also affected the everyday world in its purest essence: fashion, ceramics, home decor, furniture, and literature. Relevant figures of the time, such as Oscar Wilde, adopted aestheticism as a way of life and lived according to its principles of free expression of beauty.

It was a rebellion against materialism, ugliness and Victorian industrialism. Aestheticism discarded industrial products, with impoverished designs, created as consumer items and made by “soulless” machines.

He rejected Victorian artistic elements of delicate, curvy forms and their abundance of ornaments. He opted for a return to craftsmanship in the creation of all artistic expressions. Geometric designs, simple linear shapes and soft colors were the protagonists.

Background and principles

The Aestheticism movement began in 1851 after the Great Britain Exhibition of Visual Arts. This was an event that showed the world the greatest innovations, especially in photography. But as a result of industrialization, the art featured in the exhibition was dehumanized in its design.

Predictable and repetitive works that created a suffocating environment for artists whose possibilities for artistic expression were reduced. It didn't take long for a group that called itself Pre-Raphaelite to start using a different aesthetic expression in their works. They made it simpler, inspired by the intense colors and intricate designs of medieval art.

From this group came the aesthetes. Younger artists such as Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones joined forces to create a “cult of beauty” that would lay the foundations of the aesthetic movement. They developed a new idea of ​​female beauty that challenged Victorian moral ideas about sexual debauchery.

Japanese art was making its way into the British market at that time and had a major influence on aestheticism. Its geometric patterns, circular designs and simple, stylized organic motifs contrasted with the elaborate Victorian aesthetic. Artists began to incorporate these elements into their work.

The expression of aestheticism in its different areas

Painting was the basis from which the movement began. It was, without a doubt, the easiest way to develop the saying “art for art's sake”: the function of his works could be solely aesthetic and without any other use than beauty. Royal peacocks, fans, vases, feathers and simplified shapes began to fill the canvases.

Architecture deviated from the classical tradition and compiled disparate styles to create structural designs. Renaissance, oriental and Italian references began to combine. A feature of architectural aestheticism was the replacement of the traditional British hall by what they called an “Arabic hall”. A vaulted room that embraced different styles of Middle Eastern design.

Within the aesthetic movement, the figure of the designer became relevant. Artists who designed furniture, fabrics or ceramics became well known for their work. Aestheticism advocated that the interior of a house should be as beautiful as possible, in order to provide continuous inspiration to its inhabitants.

Fashion was also heavily influenced by this movement. We see this in the gradual abandonment of corsets, the use of lighter fabrics and more bohemian and unstructured designs. Men incorporated the characteristic element of aestheticism, the royal peacock, into their personal aesthetics.

Literature had Oscar Wilde and Algernon Charles Swinburne as the greatest representatives of aesthetic expression. His works moved away from moral and social messages to create poems and prose laden with sensuality. Literature got rid of open statements and opted for suggestive ones.

the aesthetic pleasure

It was a revolution of ideas against ugliness and materialism. This movement postulated the isolation of the individual from society to find inspiration in himself through the personal search for beauty and the emotions it provides.

This artistic movement was studied from philosophy and psychology. Although the concept seems somewhat abstract, the truth is that it was the slow start of validation of the idea of ​​introspection and beauty as a means of inspiration. One of the most important premises of the aesthetic movement was to live life intensely, with beauty as the only ideal and as if all of life were an immense work of art. 


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