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.