Sunday, 27 November 2011

Beauty, Morality & Voluptuousness

The recent Cult of Beauty exhibition at the V&A has transferred to the Musee D'Orsay in Paris, with the rather clunky new title "Beauty, Morals & Voluptuousness in the England of Oscar Wilde".  We figured that the chance to see the four objects borrowed from MoDA's collections in such a fabulous setting was too good to miss, so we booked our Eurostar tickets.

The show focuses on the Aesthetic Movement which flourished in Britain in the 1860s.  Arguably, it wasn't so much a 'movement' in the sense of having a thought-through manifesto or clear plan to change anything.  Its main driver was the desire of a literary and artistic elite (Oscar Wilde foremost among them), to differentiate themselves from the masses by their ability to choose beautiful things for their houses, rather than the 'inferior and ugly' mass produced products that were within reach of everybody else.

Japanese Katagami Stencil, late nineteenth century.  
Part of the Silver Studio collection, 
Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture, K1.1
currently on loan to the Musee D'Orsay, Paris

The result was 'Art for Art's Sake'; a rejection of the Victorian principles of order and morality and a greater emphasis on sensuality and beauty.  The exhibition ranges widely, including paintings, ceramics, book design, textiles and furniture.  In a sense, it's all spread a bit thinly, with not much to hold it together other than that "here are some beautiful objects".  Which is, in itself, a good reason to see it.  Plus, if you have room for another sensual pleasure after all that beauty, we can recommend the hot chocolate in the museum's cafe.

The exhibition continues until January 15th 2012, at the Musee D'Orsay, Paris.

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