tue 31/03/2020

The Cult of Beauty: The Aesthetic Movement 1860-1900, V&A | reviews, news & interviews

The Cult of Beauty: The Aesthetic Movement 1860-1900, V&A

The Cult of Beauty: The Aesthetic Movement 1860-1900, V&A

'Art for Art's Sake' credo explored through a cornucopia of earthly delights

'Boca Baciata': One of Dante Gabriel Rossetti's flame-haired beauties

A cult suggests unhealthy worship, and there’s more than a whiff of that in the heady decadence of the V&A’s latest art and design blockbuster, The Cult of Beauty. This is an exhibition which examines how the influence of a small clique of artists grew to inspire ideas not only about soft furnishings and the House Beautiful, but to influence a whole way of life, teaching the aspiring Victorian bohemian how, in the words of Oscar Wilde, “to live up to the beauty of one’s teapot”. And as one might expect, the exhibition is beautifully designed, in a way that suggests you might have stumbled into the secret, scented and darkly cavernous chambers of an aesthete Aladdin.

A cult suggests unhealthy worship, and there’s more than a whiff of that in the heady decadence of the V&A’s latest art and design blockbuster, The Cult of Beauty. This is an exhibition which examines how the influence of a small clique of artists grew to inspire ideas not only about soft furnishings and the House Beautiful, but to influence a whole way of life, teaching the aspiring Victorian bohemian how, in the words of Oscar Wilde, “to live up to the beauty of one’s teapot”. And as one might expect, the exhibition is beautifully designed, in a way that suggests you might have stumbled into the secret, scented and darkly cavernous chambers of an aesthete Aladdin.

Yet in no sense did the movement begin as an intellectually cohesive one

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