Aestheticism 19th-century art movement

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Aestheticism describes the European art movement of the late 19th century. It is centred on the doctrine that art exists alone for the sake of its beauty and that it does not have to serve any political, didactic or other purpose.

Aestheticism is diametrically opposite to the moralist belief, the belief that moralism (and everything else) should be the handmaiden of art instead of art (and everything else) being the handmaiden of morality.

In the second half of the 19th century, Aesethecism was centred in Great Britain. It was never officially organised into a movement, however. In favour of freer speech in the fine and decorative arts, its exponents tried to rid themselves of the rigidity of Victorian architecture. Some have identified it as ‘proto-modern and included it in the William Morris-led Arts and Crafts Movement.

Examples from Google Arts and Culture

King Cophetua and the Beggar Maid Edward Burne-Jones 1884
King Cophetua and the Beggar Maid Edward Burne-Jones 1884
The Bath of Psyche Frederic Leighton 1890
The Bath of Psyche
Frederic Leighton 1890

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