In the midst of the Industrial Revolution, where machines and mass production dominated daily life, a group of artists and designers emerged with a revolutionary idea: beauty should not be sacrificed for functionality. This was the birth of The Aesthetic Movement in Britain during the 19th century. Join us as we delve into this fascinating movement that celebrated art, design, and craftsmanship above all else. Discover how The Aesthetic Movement influenced fashion, architecture, interior design, and even social attitudes towards beauty – this is a story you won’t want to miss!
Origins of the Movement
The Aesthetic Movement began in Britain in the mid-19th century as a reaction to the ugliness and materialism of the Industrial Age. Artists and designers sought to create a more beautiful and harmonious world through their work. ‘Art for Art’s sake’ was their slogan, meaning that art should be produced to be beautiful, rather than to serve moral, allegorical, or other didactic purposes.
Key Figures of the Aesthetic Movement
Some of the key figures of the Aesthetic Movement include Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones. These figures were part of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and are credited as some of the most important figures in the development of the Aesthetic Movement.
A few individuals from Rossetti’s group showed a deep enthusiasm for the design arts, wishing to change mundane and ostentatious furnishing and items of the middle-class house.
These designers sought to make furniture and décor fit for the title of ‘Art Furniture’, leveraging a refined sensibility to line and geometrical form or a feeling for natural ornament and harmonious colour.
Beauty in the home with Aesthetic style furniture
The Aesthetes’ eccentric lifestyles triggered public fascination, sparking a craze for anything ‘Artistic’, from an extravagant refurbishment by a fashionable architect to the purchase of an artistic bric-a-brac from the Far East for the mantelpiece.
And with this ideal of beauty and beautiful, Aesthetic designers completely changed the concept of furniture design. Whereas Victorian consumers had a strong preference for Louis XIV styles that featured a lot of ornamental curves, Aesthetic pieces are characterized by an air of elegance and simplicity. Although they look modern to us, these designs actually draw inspiration from different historical sources like Asian, Egyptian, Greek and English examples dating back to the 18th century.
Aesthetic-style furniture nowadays
Nowadays, Aesthetic style furniture is recognisable thanks to the fact that they are characterised by several common things. For example, it boasts ebonised wood with gilt accents, a design influenced by the Far Eastern, incorporates elements of nature such as flowers, birds, ginkgo leaves and peacock feathers, and often includes blue and white motifs on porcelain and fine china.
In our shop, we have a beautiful Aesthetic Movement Ebonised and Gilt Side Chair with Hand Painted Birds that has also been featured in Antique Trade Gazette. The chair, dating c. 1870, has been luxuriously reupholstered using crushed velvet similar to the previous one to help brings out the gilt in the wood and the colours in the paintings.