Cult Of Beauty: The British Aesthetic Movement At Home

Ever since Vogue ran a gorgeous spread about the exhibit "The Cult of Beauty: The Victorian Avant-Garde", I've been waiting impatiently for it to come to San Francisco. It is here at last, in all its lush beauty...

The Legion of Honor is The Cult of Beauty's only U.S. venue, so I highly recommend you make your way there if you're anywhere nearby. Unfortunately, the Vogue story is not available online, but there are shots from the accompanying fashion spread. Art Daily and San Mateo's Daily Journal both have insightful articles about the exhibit, exploring both the individual objects and the British Aesthetic Movement's place in history and art history. As written in Art Daily, "The iconoclastic belief that art's sole purpose is to be beautiful on its own formal terms stood in direct opposition to Victorian society's commitment to art's role as moral educator." The passionate search for a new ideal of Beauty (with a capital B) also led avant-garde artists to create beautiful objects with which to decorate their homes. Let's take a glimpse inside their rarified world and see what we can learn...

  • Saint Cecilia by John William Waterhouse is inspiration to drag the most comfortable, luxurious chair outside on the next fair day. No sitting in folding lawn chairs like an animal! Just don't forget to drag it back in, if you don't have two musicians to do it for you.
  • It's a little tough to get ideas from Midsummer by Albert Moore- I don't have a throne, for one, but perhaps the thing to take away is if you're going to do something, really do it. Drape your home in floral garland that matches your robes, or at least wear a very nice robe around the house.
  • Honestly, these first three paintings make me think the Victorian Avant-Garde was all about being utterly exhausted by the endless beauty surrounding you, and passing out in chairs while handmaidens waited to attend to your needs. The three large paintings (or tapestries?) in the background of Laus Veneris by Edward Burne-Jones are a bit much for modern tastes, but I could definitely go for that blue dress.
  • The rich tapestry Pomona by Sir Edward Burne-Jones and John Henry Dearle reminds us to dress for the occasion. Going to gather produce from the garden for tonight's dinner? Skip the cutoffs and wear something that looks lovely surrounded by fruit and flowers. And carrying your harvest in your skirt is far more picturesque than using a plastic bag.
  • William Morris' Fruit (or Pomegranate) wallpaper makes me hope someone starts reprinting all of his designs. In the meantime, they are available as prints from the V&A Museum. Of course, yours won't have holes in it like the original.

(Images: 1. Art Daily 2. The Telegraph 3. Legion of Honor 4. V&A Museum 5. V&A Museum.)

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