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  Aestheticism was a British arts movement which flourished briefly from the 1880s to the 1900s. Its main idea was that works of art should exist for their own sakes, without external relevance or meaning: ‘the desire of beauty, the love of art for art\'s sake’, as Walter Pater, a leading aesthete, put it. The aesthetes looked back to the ideal of beauty put forward in the paintings and writings of the Pre-Raphaelites. They also admired the dandyism and licence of the contemporary French avant-garde. Perhaps the most famous adherents of aestheticism were Aubrey Beardsley and Oscar Wilde in his green-carnation period. Those sympathetic to the movement included Swinburne, W.B. Yeats and Max Beerbohm. The movement was mocked in its own day (for example by Gilbert and Sullivan in Patience), and has, ever since, provided Philistines and comedians with a stereotype (accurate or not) of avant-garde artists as decadent, arrogant and dandified frauds. KMcL

Further reading Richard Aldington, The Religion of Beauty; , Roger Scruton, Art and Imagination.



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