Art for Art’s Sake

Pavonia by Frederic Leighton, 1858-59
Veronica Veronese by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1872

The Victoria & Albert Museum in London, is one of my favorite museums in the world (well what I’ve seen of it anyway). I spent a lot of happy hours here when I studied abroad in London in 2002. I’ve since become a follower of the museum’s exhibition blogs as a way to vicariously visit its ongoing exhibitions. Recently, I came across one that I could justify the ridiculously expensive summer airfare to London just to see in person: The Cult of Beauty: The Aesthetic Movement 1860-1900

Aestheticism was a movement to escape the extreme materialism (and stuffiness, in my opinion) of the Victorian era by creating a new kind of art and beauty, where art was created only for art’s sake, over and above any sort of moral, political or social message. The exhibition features paintings, furniture, wallpapers, photographs, costumes and other objects by some of the leading artists/designers of the period, including William Morris and Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

While the concept that art exists just to be beautiful is somewhat of an elitist view to me, I admire Aestheticism’s aspiration to bring art and beauty to everyone, rather than a select few. And I just love the amazing works of art that came out of it.

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