The Cult of Beauty: The Aesthetic Movement 1860-1900

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A remarkable array of work from the Aesthetic Movement will be exhibited at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London this spring, including work from some of the most celebrated artists of the late 19th-century.

I was lucky enough to attend the press launch today at the magnificent Leighton House Museum, a fitting venue filled with aesthetic artefacts in the house of one of the period’s greatest artists, Frederic Lord Leighton.

The aesthetic movement centres on “art as art’s sake”, in other words: creating art for its beauty, not for symbolism or anecdotes.

Stephen Calloway, the V&A curator explained:

“The Aesthetic Movement was born out of a cacophony of conflicting ideas, theories and experiments in art. Perhaps the one clear message was that people hoped to escape from what was seen to be the ugliness and increasing commerciality of the 1860s to 1870s.”

He added: “The artists and designers that we feature in the exhibition all tried in their various ways to completely revolutionise the fields in which they work – whether it’s painting, sculpture or the creation of furniture and the decoration of houses.”

The Cult of Beauty: The Aesthetic Movement 1860-1900 will include work by famous artists and designers such as William Morris, James McNeill Whistler, Edward Burne-Jones and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, as well as Oscar Wilde – a great conveyor of the Aesthetic Movement.

Among the 250 pieces on display will be a peacock frieze on display for the first time and the only known examples of E W Godwin’s ceramics.

The Cult of Beauty: The Aesthetic Movement 1860-1900 at the V&A from 2 April until 17 July 2011


  1. Jenny says:

    This looks fantastic. I’ll make a note to see it next year.

  2. I will come all the way from Sweden to see this; the aestethic movement is the last movement of true art; that art that is created merely for the sake of beauty. A lot is not known about this movement, I truly hope that this exhibiton will make way for a deeper knowledged of this movement; a knowledged that, perhaps, will show us modern artists to be fools.

    Excause my english, gentlemen. All the best.

  3. Hubert says:

    A wonderful opportunity for the V&A to show the more remarkable 1876 woven SILK version of the Peacock feather pattern which has never been exhibited previously, although it was illustrated p.63 in the V&A’s 2004 exhibition catalogue ‘Shock of the Old: Christopher Dresser’s Design Revolution.’ Your blog picture of this pattern gives the date 1887 and Arthur Silver as the designer which is confusing as it contradicts the previous V&A publication and other references.