Summary
Aestheticism (also the aesthetic movement) was an art movement in the late 19th century that valued the appearance of literature, music , and the arts over their functions. According to Aestheticism, art should be produced to be beautiful, rather than to teach a lesson, create a parallel, or perform another didactic purpose, a sentiment best illustrated by the slogan "art for art's sake". Aestheticism originated in 1860s England with a radical group of artists and designers, including William Morris and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. It flourished in the 1870s and 1880s, gaining prominence and the support of notable writers such as Walter Pater and Oscar Wilde. Aestheticism challenged the values of mainstream Victorian culture, as many Victorians believed that literature and art fulfilled important ethical roles. Writing in The Guardian, Fiona McCarthy states that "the aesthetic movement stood in stark and sometimes shocking contrast to the crass materialism of Britain in the 19th century." Aestheticism was named by the critic Walter Hamilton in The Aesthetic Movement in England in 1882. By the 1890s, decadence, a term with origins in common with aestheticism, was in use across Europe. Aestheticism has its roots in German Romanticism. Though the term "aesthetic" derives from Greek, Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten's Aesthetica (1750) made important use of it in German before Immanuel Kant incorporated it into his philosophy in the Critique of Judgment (1790). Kant, in turn, influenced Friedrich Schiller's Aesthetic Letters (1794) and his concept of art as Spiel (Play): "Man is never so serious as when he plays; man is wholly man only when he plays". In the Letters, Schiller proclaimed salvation through art:Man has lost his dignity, but Art has saved it, and preserved it for him in expressive marbles. Truth still lives in fiction, and from the copy the original will be restored.
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