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This artistical, cultural and social movement started during the 1870s. It had many contacts with French Symbolism and Decadentism.

"Aestheticims"= greek word meaning "senses" the purpose of Aesthets was to try as many sensual experiences as possible through the senses.

They consider the 848h78i poet Keats as an inspirer (eg. "La Belle Dame sans Merci").

The main principal was that of "art for art's sake", which means that art had no moral purpose, it had just to create Beauty. Beauty was the highets perfection of human endeavour and its essence was represented by the Form.

The manifesto of the movement, expressing other principles, were the preface of Wilde's "The picture of Dorian Gray" (1891):

The artist is a creator of beautiful things

To reveal art and conceal the artist is art's aim

The critic is he who can translate into another matter or a new material his impression of beautiful things

There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written or badly written. That is all

No artist has ethical symphaties. N ethical symphaty in an artist is an unpardonable mannerism of style.

No artist is ever morbid. The artist can express everything.

Vice and virtue are to the artist materials for an art

It is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors.

Diversity of opinion about a work of art shows that the work is new, complex and vital.

Aesthetic writers led very unconventional lives, pursuing pleasure in all its forms and experiencing new sensations by devoting themselves to the cult of Beauty and Art. This was a rebellion against the hypocrisy, moralism, prudishness, strictness, monotony and low quality life of the family-centred Victorian society.

Aestheticism included may forms of art, as literature, music, painting, because they could all produce delightful sensations.

Walter Pater (an English scholar) wrote "Studies in the History of the Renaissance" (1873), which particularly influenced the whole Aesthetic Movement and Wilde.

Oscar Wilde expressed his ideas about Art and artists in a letter: he wrote that Art had nor practical neither didactical purpose, as it wasn't meant to instruct or to be useful. When an artist created a work, it was only for his personal pleasure and he did it only fot this pleasure's sake. The artist worked with his eye on the object: nothing else interested him, even what people were likely to say.

In his opinion, "all art was quite useless": art had no pratical, didactical, descriptive, political or social role.

Wilde was considered a "dandy": he was a very elegant man who gave grat importance to his appeareance, to his refined and eccentric lifestyle and to brilliant conversations, as he wanted life to be a work of art. His Aesthetic ideas pervade his novel "The Picture of Dorian Gray" (1891).

Other artist influenced by Pater's and Wilde's theories were:

James Whistler, a painter (one of Wilde's friends), used to give his paintings musical titles, in order to highlight that shapes and colours of the work were more important than its subject and meaning. (eg. "Symphony in White, No.2, The Little White Girl")

Joris-Carl Huysmans, exponent of European Decadentism, wrote "À Rebours" (1884). In the novel the protagonist, the Duc Jean Des Esseintes, is a decadent Aesthet which leads a life centred on pleasure-seeking and made of otrageous experiences. This book is the "yellow book" represented in Wilde's "The Picture of Dorian Gray", which is given to Dorian by Lord Henry; Dorian bases all his life on this book, which brings the boy to a tragic end.

Gabriele D'Annunzio, an Italian writer, created an outstanding decadent novel, "Il Piacere" (1889). Its pleasure seeeking protagonist Conte Andrea Sperelli is very similar to Dorian Gray.

Gustave Moureau, a painter, influenced Wilde too. His dark, oriental charming paintings are loved by the protagonist of the book (eg. "The Apparition", painting that mixes sex and death).

Wilde was inspired by them to create "Salomé" (1891), a tragedy written in French. Its play was forbidden in Great Britain because its sensuality was considered immoral, but it represented a great source of inspiration for other artist's works:

Aubrey Beardsley, a young artist, illustrated the English edition of "Salomé" (1893). He produces a series of prints, in which he expressend the decadent fascination of blood and death on flat surfaces in black and white, crossed by undulating lines (eg. "The Climax"). He also anticipated the artistic movement of "Art Nouveau".

Richard Strauss, a German musician, composed an opera based on Wilde's "Salomé", which was first perfomed in Dresden (1905). At that time it was banned in New York and Chicago, but today is part of the rephertory in many opera teathres.


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