The Cult of Beauty Exhibition
The San Francisco Art Museum Legion of Honor current exhibition, The Cult of Beauty: The Victorian Avant-Garde 1860-1900, focuses on a period in the nineteenth century when a group of artists, architects and designers found themselves united in the search for a new Beauty. The Aesthetic Movement, as it came to be known, sought nothing less than the creation of a new kind of art, an art freed from outworn establishment ideas and Victorian notions of morality. This was to be ‘Art for Art’s sake’ – art that did not tell stories or make moral points, art that dared simply to offer visual delight and hint at sensuous pleasure. This new and exciting ‘Cult of Beauty’ joined, for a while at least, romantic bohemians such as Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones, along with maverick figures such James McNeill Whistler and painters of grand classical subjects who belonged to the circle of Frederic Leighton. The Cult of Beauty brings together the finest pictures, furniture and decorative arts of this extraordinary era, setting them in the context of this glittering cast of characters.
John Spencer Stanhope, Love and the Maiden, 1877. Tempera, gold paint and gold leaf on canvas.
This very interesting chair is by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema. I didn’t know he did anything other than his paintings on canvas.
For those of us who cannot attend, this exhibition catalogue sounds very worthwhile.
“The book also reveals how artists’ houses, their collections of beautiful things and their extravagant lifestyles became the object of public fascination. The influence of the ‘Palaces of Art’ created by Rossetti and Morris, Lord Leighton and others led to a widespread revolution in architecture and interior decoration. Oscar Wilde made his name promoting the idea of ‘The House Beautiful’ and the styles favoured by Aesthetic designers were among the very first to be widely exploited commercially in Britain. The Cult of Beauty examines the Aesthetic Movement through the work and ideas of its key figures who devoted their lives to the pursuit of Beauty, charting the development of this daring experiment in art and lifestyle from the romantic bohemianism of the 1860s to its final, fascinating Decadent phase in the last decade of Queen Victoria’s reign.” 296 pages, softcover. FAMSF Publication.
As an appreciator, artist and designer of the classical style I resonate with the exhibition name ‘Cult of Beauty’ and the aesthetic movement which promotes ‘Art for Art’s Sake’. Beauty Cult is a great new category to explore and promote today’s beauty. I know decorative painters have experienced a decrease in work due to the economy. It is good for the economy, you and the aesthetic movement of today’s beauty to work with artists and craftsmen. These spaces will be the enduring legacy of this time.
Thank you to the wonderful blog Style Court by Courtney Barnes discussing the aesthetic legacy of Downton Abbey which has its final episode Sunday. Viewers of this genre are looking for a replacement. It seems a predictable trend that classical interiors are going to be the hot ‘new’ look. English Home is calling attention to their lace pillows featured on the Show.
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