Oscar Wilde and the Aestheticism Movement

Categories: Oscar Wilde

The arts in addition to crafts movement was the main clause of reform design in the 19th century that describes the era of its greatest advancement, roughly between 1870 and 1920 (Campbell, 2006). The two major stylistic advancements of this movement’s philosophy are the Aesthetic Movement and Art Nouveau. Aesthetic Movement of the 19th century, according to Lambourne, (1996) is a movement that existed in the 1870s to 1880s, which made itself noticeable through the fine in addition to decorative arts and architecture in both Britain and the United States.

Its influence in Europe was so great that it is had to describe.

In response to what was perceived as evidence of philistinism in art and design, it was typified by the cult of beauty and as well an emphasis on the sheer pressure to de obtained from it (Lambourne, 1996). Championing of the aesthetic movement was done by the writers and critics Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), Walter Patel (1839-94), and Charles Swinburne (1837-1909) (Campbell, 2006). These artists in conjunction with craftsmen of aesthetic movement sought to lift up the form of furniture, ceramics, wall papers, books, glass, textile and metalwork to the level of fine art.

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They tended to hold that Arts should offer purified sumptuous pleasure instead of conveying moral over-romantic messages. He was concerned with the impact of moralizing on art as a result of his view of art as a separate form of life (Gere and Hoskins, 2000). Wilde, in particular, did not agree to Ruskin and Arnold’s utilitarian view of art as something moral or helpful.

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He believed that art did not play educational role; it only needed to make beautiful statements. He argued that beauty is the only thing that cannot harm (Raby, 1988).

Just like other aesthetes, Wilde denied the social value of literature and art. Wilde stated that the most important things in life are autonomy from moral fetters as well as the limitations of society (McDermott, 2007). Wilde was deeply concerned with the soul of man. This made him to constantly complain about poverty in is his work. Wilde, as McDermott, (2007) asserts, argued that the life of an artist is more important than any form of art that he/she develops He also noted that life itself is an art and that true artists present their lives as their finest productions (Raby, 1988).

Wilde had used aesthetic decorations throughout his youth. He had devoted so evidently and uncompromisingly to living his art. He considered his own life as a form of art (Raby, 1988). Wilde together with other aesthetes established the cult of beauty, which they regarded as the principle factor in art. They took nature as rough and deficient in design when compared to art. They adopted the principle of art for arts sake and established art over everything else. Wilde, as Raby (1988) argues, set out to widen this principle to that of life for the sake of art.

In oxford as indicated by Campbell (2006), Wilde astonished the religious dons with his inappropriate approach towards religion. He was also heckled at his weird clothes. The use of peacock feathers in addition to blue and white china typified the aesthetic interiors. Wilde gathered blue China as well as peacock feathers, which he decorated his room with and later on his velvet knee-breeches which attracted much attention. Wilde worked as a reviewer of art and conducted lecturers in the U.

S and Canada (Raby, 1988). He had a luxurious taste for everything and, after conducting a series of lectures his listeners changed to a new set of standards for designing their homes (Lambourne, 1996). The amalgamation of Wilde’s exposure through the famous media in addition to the wealth of specialist furnishing as well as beautifying manuals assisted in simulating the public in the novel style. Manufacturers were also quick to take up the new trends in decorative styles (McDermott, 2007).

Wilde created a series of discussions as well as essays that advanced his view on the supremacy of art. His views concerning art were basically chatty and positive. Wilde published lyrics along with poems in magazines from the time when he entered college. He included serious articles on parenting, politics and culture to his dialogues of fashion and arts. Wilde typified, through his own words, the response against the rudimentary primaries of a doubtless more reputable but definitely less cultivated era (McDermott, 2007).

Most of Wilde’s work conformed to aesthetic principles. It revealed an over balance of curiosity in both subject and styles, and a response to the restriction of outward practical things (Gere and Hoskins, 2000). Philosophy of Esthetic Movement, as stated by Lambourne, (1996) was spread to the United States by William Morris. Wilde, as stated by Raby (1988), made a lecture tour of the United States in 1882. Despite the fact that he satirized for his effeteness and pomposity he increased awareness of the Aesthetic Movement.

The highest profile figure of Aesthetic Movement was Oscar Wilde; he gave approval to himself as the center of an aesthetic experience that was to some extent exaggerated, absolutely exclusive as well as completely dedicated to the pursuit of art and beauty (Raby, 1988). Wilde was the spokesman for Aesthetic Movement through his excellent humor and conscious posing. He made himself a convenient vehicle through which the Aesthetic Movement was extensively advertised (Campbell, 2006). Wilde had an unwavering faith in his mission.

He clearly stated that he had no fears regarding the future (Raby, 1988). Gere and Hoskins (2000) states that through Wilde’s presentation, aestheticism developed to a cult of artificiality. The popular plays produced by Wilde, according to Spektor (2009), were comedies of conduct that were closer to Restoration comedies than the Victorian plays. Until the time he was tried Wilde carried the Aesthetic Movement as an excellent performance piece, an approach that was supported by the British society, due to the fact that he never seemed to take himself too seriously.

Wilde the aesthete introduced an experience for continental values and finally what Victorian society basically held to be continental profligacy (Raby, 1988). Much early criticism of aestheticism summed up the conventional Victorian move of calling Aesthetic Movement dissolute; both for its stress on art as an unethical venture and for its inflections of homosexuality (Spektor, 2009). Contemporary critics have tried to contextualize the aesthetic movement by considering literary, social, as well as artistic movements that resulted in aesthesis along with those that were later influenced by it.

In the process, they have a propensity of primarily looking at its representations of sexuality and gender instead of on the form and qualities of the art under discussion. Paradoxically, the modern criticism almost at all times put both art as well as homosexuality back into the Victorian culture. This explains how cultural stance of aestheticism and its approaches about sexuality and gender were determined by the principles of the larger Victorian society (McDermott, 2007).

Lambourne (1996) states that Wilde became one of the most celebrated playwrights of the late Victorian phase in Britain with a series of social satires. Wilde claimed to have taken a firm position in symbolic relation to the art and culture of the 19th century. Actually he manifested the conclusion of the novel sensibility which surfaced through the second half of the 19th century (Lambourne, 1996). Without Wilde the Aesthetic Movement of the 1880s and the Decadent Movement of the 1890s would not have been as famous as they came to be (Gere and Hoskins, 2000). Wilde’s personal life was subject to rumors.

His years of success came to a dramatic end when his close relationship with Alfred Douglas resulted in his trial on charges of homosexuality which was by then illegal in Britain (Lambourne, 1996). Lambourne (1996) states that after being sentenced to a two year term imprisonment for homosexual activities, the period of British fashion history was successfully brought to an end until the revival of the male dandy after the Second World War It was until Walde's trial that aestheticism, effeminacy and homosexuality came to be recognized as inextricably connected categories (Spektor, 2009).

The trial of Wilde cemented an already developing link between effeminacy and homosexuality. Before the trials, aesthetes were infamous because of their effeminacy. However, it was taken as a product of the complex, upper-class standard of living they professed. Homosexuality was an issue alluded to in their work, but it was not evidently linked to effeminacy. It was after this trial that the radical type of the effete, effeminate and homosexuals became easily distinguishable to the public at large. Walde’s influence remains strongly in modern male fashion (Spektor, 2009).


  1. Campbell G. , (2006), The Grove encyclopedia of decorative arts, ISBN 0195189485 Oxford University Press US Gere C. , and Hoskins L. , (2000).
  2. The house beautiful: Oscar Wilde and the aesthetic interior, ISBN 0853318182 Lund Humphries Lambourne L. , (1996), The Aesthetic Movement, ISBN 0714830003: Phaidon McDermott C. , (2007), Design: the key concepts, ISBN 041532016X: Routledge Raby P. , (1988), Oscar Wilde, ISBN 0521260787: CUP Archive Spektor N. , (2009), "The Picture of Dorian Gray" and the Aesthetic Movement in England at the Turn of the Century, ISBN 3640319567: GRIN Verlag
Updated: Nov 01, 2022
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Oscar Wilde and the Aestheticism Movement. (2016, Oct 17). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/oscar-wilde-and-the-aestheticism-movement-essay

Oscar Wilde and the Aestheticism Movement essay
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