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Term used to describe a movement of the 1870s and 1880s that manifested itself in the fine and decorative arts and architecture in Britain and subsequently in the USA. Reacting to what was seen as evidence of philistinism in art and design, it was characterized by the cult of the beautiful and an emphasis on the sheer pleasure to be derived from it. In painting there was a belief in the autonomy of art, the concept of Art for Art’s Sake, which originated in France as a literary movement and was introduced into Britain around 1860.

The Aesthetic Movement was championed by the writers and critics Walter Pater, Algernon Charles Swinburne and Oscar Wilde. In keeping with Pater’s theories, the artists associated with it painted pictures without narrative or significant subject-matter. Dante Gabriel Rossetti took his inspiration from Venetian art because of its emphasis on colour and the decorative. This resulted in a number of half-length paintings of female figures, such as the ...

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Isabel L. Taube

Late 19th-century movement in the arts and literature characterized by the pursuit and veneration of beauty and the fostering of close relationships among the fine and applied arts. According to its major proponents, beauty was found in imaginative creations that harmonized colours, forms, and patterns derived from Western and non-Western cultures as well as motifs from nature. The Aesthetic Movement gained momentum in England in the 1850s, achieved widespread popularity in England and the USA by the 1870s, and declined by the 1890s.

The principal ideologies and practices of British Aestheticism came to the USA through both educational and commercial channels. As early as 1873, the Scottish stained-glass designer, decorator, and art dealer Daniel Cottier opened a branch of his interior design shop in New York and played a significant role in introducing aesthetic taste and artefacts to Americans. The Philadelphia Centennial Exposition of 1876, with its extensive display of industrial and decorative arts, showcased British Aestheticism and the Japanese ceramics that influenced it. British art magazines and books, especially Charles Locke Eastlake’s ...

Article

Phylis Floyd

French term used to describe a range of European borrowings from Japanese art. It was coined in 1872 by the French critic, collector and printmaker Philippe Burty ‘to designate a new field of study—artistic, historic and ethnographic’, encompassing decorative objects with Japanese designs (similar to 18th-century Chinoiserie), paintings of scenes set in Japan, and Western paintings, prints and decorative arts influenced by Japanese aesthetics. Scholars in the 20th century have distinguished japonaiserie, the depiction of Japanese subjects or objects in a Western style, from Japonisme, the more profound influence of Japanese aesthetics on Western art.

There has been wide debate over who was the first artist in the West to discover Japanese art and over the date of this discovery. According to Bénédite, Félix Bracquemond first came under the influence of Japanese art after seeing the first volume of Katsushika Hokusai’s Hokusai manga (‘Hokusai’s ten thousand sketches’, 1814) at the printshop of ...

Article

Marisa J. Pascucci

(b Marlboro, MA, Aug 25, 1867; d Lexington, MA, April 16, 1945).

American painter and frame designer. Murphy painted landscapes, still lifes and portraits in the Tonalist and Impressionist manner (see Tonalism and Impressionism). In the 1880s he enrolled in the Boston Museum School and studied under Edmund C(harles) Tarbell and Frank W(eston) Benson. After this period of study, he served as an illustrator for the Nicaraguan Canal Expedition in 1887 and contributed illustrations to books and magazines from 1888 to 1894. Once he had saved enough money from his illustration work, he left Boston to study in Paris at the Académie Julian from 1891 to 1896 with Jean-Paul Laurens. While in Paris, he met James McNeill Whistler who had the greatest influence on his work. Murphy returned to the Boston area in 1897 and was awarded the bronze medal at the 1901 Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, NY. A year later he began teaching life drawing at Harvard School of Architecture, a position he held until ...

Article

American, 19th century, male.

Active in England and in France.

Born 10 July 1834, in Lowell (Massachusetts); died 17 July 1903 , in London.

Painter, pastellist, watercolourist, etcher, draughtsman, lithographer, decorative designer, writer, collector. Genre scenes, portraits, landscapes.

Japonisme, Aesthetic movement.

James Abbott McNeill Whistler’s father, Major George Whistler, came from an old Dutch family. As a military engineer, he accepted a job that took him to Russia to work on the St Petersburg-Moscow railway line, and his son, still a child, went with him. George Whistler remained in Russia until his death in 1849, after which his widow, Anna McNeill (who was of Scottish origin), returned to the United States with her son. Whistler devoted himself to drawing, while at the same time working to enter West Point Military Academy; he succeeded in 1851, but he was of an independent nature and it was not long before he decided to give up a military career. He found employment as a draughtsman for the US Coast and Geodetic Survey in Washington, DC, and it was at this time that he executed his first etchings. Here too, however, the constraints of bureaucracy sat ill with him, and he resigned his position in 1855 to open a studio in Washington. He then left the United States and settled in Europe, working in London and in Paris. In 1856, he joined Charles Gleyre’s studio, where he was a fellow pupil and friend of Edgar Degas, Alphonse Legros, Félix Bracquemond, and especially Henri Fantin-Latour....