‘EXCESSIVE’ BEAUTY IN THE PAGEANT
he second volume of the late-Victorian magazine, The Pageant, was a whimsical distraction for the art lovers of the 19th century. The aesthetics are given a great deal of emphasis through the use of decadence and ornaments. I observed, there is visual importance even in the smallest of details.
Starting with the initial presenting of the magazine, it was in a wrapped gift which “teased the readers with what it was awaiting” as mentioned in Frederick King’s “Critical Introduction The Pageant.” The designer of the wrapper, Gleeson White, designed the cover to represent the thematic and aesthetic values of the magazine- simple, symmetrical and otherworldly – a focus on nature and a sense of mythology. Through the use of decorative lines and complementary colors, White elicited the coherence, structured, and perfectly balanced appearance of the overall volume.
“The wrapper for the second volume of The Pageant, 1897. The image was collected from the article by King Fredrick.”
This perfectly adheres with the notion of looking at the magazine as a whole – unified work of art as discussed in Koenraad Claes’ article “Introduction” to The Late-Victorian Little Magazine. The gift wrapper, then not only gave the magazine a place on the gift bookshelves at the time but also contributed to the idea of The Pageant’s second volume being a “Total Work of Art.”
Adding to the idea of collaboration and unity, the art editor, Charles Shannon prioritizes aesthetics throughout the entire volume. I noticed, the themes of romanticism, fairytale, mythical, and nature are heavily prevalent in both the literary content and the visual artwork in the magazine, which again, emphasizes the idea of the magazine as being a total work of art.
In particular, the imagery often depicts these subjects through sensual nudes of both males and females. The Autumn Muse by Charles Ricketts is representative of the kind of artwork generally present in this volume. The decadent subject matter- a nude female figure- combined with an intense emphasis on natural motifs is exemplary of the subject matter and style of many of the other artworks.
Also notable are the physical aesthetics of the literary works, which please the viewers’ eye. Along with the content – which again, explores sexual mythologies, nature, romanticism – the physical space also shares common elements with the artworks. The decorative fleurons beside the headings, the elaborated initial at the beginning, the symmetry in the paragraphs, the white space – all exhibit a sense of balance.
As a result, the second volume of The Pageant, works as a “Total Work of Art”, through the emphasis on aesthetic in both the literary work and the artworks. I believe, the excessive attention on the appearance speaks about the intentions of the editors: to provide the readers an escape into the world of fantasy, where mythological creatures, nature, and romance are everywhere!