A movement in late 19th century art, architecture, and literature promoting art and objects produced for their own sake and aesthetic value rather than for their value as a medium of imparting moral, political, or other kinds of messages. As a practice descended from Pre-Raphaelite art bearing a close relationship to Decadence, Aestheticism focused on ornamentation and ostentatious, dazzling sensual displays rather than sombre expressions of utility or didactic twists.
Aestheticism adopted a kind of syncretic attitude, pulling inspiration from sources bridging a large variety of cultures and time periods. Rather than refer directly to previous artworks and movements, the Aesthetes often preferred to adopt techniques in a kind of bricolage for the purpose of provoking more nebulous and atmospheric emotional reactions from their audience.
Aesthetic art tended to mix sensibilities considered both high and low at the time, aiming to create objects of extraordinary beauty as a reaction against the drab and oppressive industrial landscapes of 19th century urban Europe. It was as much a decorative art movement as a fine art movement, finding a place in the homes of many of its proponents, dubbed “palaces of art”, including figures like Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Edward Burne Jones.
The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. Aestheticism . www.britannica.com/art/Aestheticism.
“V&A · An Introduction to the Aesthetic Movement.” Victoria and Albert Museum, www.vam.ac.uk/articles/an-introduction-to-the-aesthetic-movement.