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Artists in this movement were:
James Abbott McNeill Whistler
Albert Joseph Moore
Dante Gabriel Rossetti
John Roddam Spencer Stanhope
Abbott Handerson Thayer
EXCERPT: Aesthetic Movement
~ late nineteenth century movement that championed pure beauty and ‘art for art’s sake.’
~ visual and sensual qualities of art dominated the practical, moral or narrative.
~ primarily in Britain in the 1870s and 1880s but was picked up by other artists elsewhere
~ covered both fine and applied arts.
~ The painter James Abbott McNeill Whistler was at the forefront of the movement.
~ Movement, and especially Whistler, were influenced by Japanese art and design.
~ William Morris was at the forefront of the applied arts portion of the Movement.
~ “The Aesthetic Movement in England” by critic Walter Hamilton was the primary written resource for the movement.
EXCERPT: James Abbott McNeill Whistler 1834-1904
~ American painter, active during the Gilded Age.
~ although his art was delicate and beautiful, his personality was combative and off-putting
~ found a parallel between painting and music, especially the primacy of tonal harmony in music.
~ explored tones of color as his primary interest in painting.
~ most famous painting is “Whistler's Mother”; his model cancelled so he was forced to use his mother as his model.
~ He saw it as an exercise in painting tones of color. The public didn’t see it that way but rather as an expression about motherhood.
~ Whistler was a temperamental child. His parents used art, got him drawing, to settle him down when he was throwing a fit.
~ What first took the Whistlers to Europe was that Whistler’s father accepted a position in 1842, engineering a railroad from St. Petersburg to Moscow. Whistler’s father died at age 49 of cholera. That sent the family back to the United States.
~ Whistler enrolled at West Point because he needed an income. He was a terrible soldier in the making but he did learn drawing and map making from American artist Robert W. Weir while there.
~ He worked in America, mapping the U.S. coast for military and maritime uses.
~ When a wealthy friend offered to help him to become an artist, he took him up on the offer, using funds to travel to France to study. He never returned from Europe.
~ He met up with other artists and began to learn art in earnest.
~ By 1858 he was living in London, which became his permanent home. There he painted his first serious work, At the Piano.
~ His first famous work was Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl.
~ Whistler had painted it as a simple study in white because of his interest in tones.
~ However, the critics saw in it all sorts of sexual innuendo, giving it meanings Whistler never intended.
~ By 1866, Whistler began painting his Nocturne series, nocturnal paintings—which he termed “moonlights.”
~ These were night scenes over the water, painted at first in blue or light green. The Thames River became a frequent subject.
~ Whistler used highly thinned paint as his ground, with lightly flicked color to suggest ships, lights, and other matter.
~ He was influenced by the Japanese prints of Hiroshige.
~ Edgar Degas invited Whistler to exhibit with the first show by the Impressionists in 1874 but Whistler turned down the invitation. He liked the style he was developing and did not want to become an Impressionist.
~ Whistler developed an equally strong reputation with his etchings.
~ “Whistler’s Mother” was initially not well received but eventually became an enormous hit.
~ Author Martha Tedeschi wrote:
~ "Whistler's Mother, Wood's American Gothic, da Vinci's Mona Lisa and Munch's The Scream have all achieved something that most paintings—regardless of their art historical importance, beauty, or monetary value—have not: they communicate a specific meaning almost immediately to almost every viewer. These few works have successfully made the transition from the elite realm of the museum visitor to the enormous venue of popular culture."