Cult of Beauty Exhibit Highlights Victorian Era

12 May, 2012 at 07:43 | Posted in Culture, picture of the day | Leave a comment
Tags: ,

Middle-class art brings beauty to stark homes

By Sylvia McCleary

SAN FRANCISCO—The Cult of Beauty exhibit, currently at The Legion of Honor in San Francisco, presents works from the height of the British Aesthetic period 1860–1900. Calling the period a gentle time would be an understatement. The exhibit gives an understanding not only of the elite world but also of the needs and wants of the working-class home.

Other works of art, such as furniture, jewelry, wallpaper, and the first trinkets found in Victorian homes purely for decoration, are shown and give a feeling that all classes of this period wanted something of beauty brought into their homes.

But the paintings make the exhibit. From John Spencer Stanhope’s “Love and the Maiden” (1877) to James McNeil Whistler’s “Harmony in Grey and Green: Miss Cicely Alexander” (1872–1874), they show the depth of art from that period.

One of my favorite pieces at the exhibition was “Laus Veneris” (1873–1878), by Edward Burne-Jones. It shows a lady sitting back in her chair, with a gold crown on her lap, listening to other ladies discussing medieval scriptures.

The details of the painting with the single rose thrown carelessly on the ground and intricate tapestries in the background bring a sense of life and thoughtfulness to the picture.


Edward Reiner of San Francisco said, “I love the beauty of the paintings that to me show a simpler, calmer life whilst in reality this time period was an extremely hard one for most. I loved the drops of a piece of furniture or a tea set which in some ways threw me off of what the exhibit was about, but in reality I enjoyed the variety.”

The exhibit reflects the feeling of owning things and tells of the middle class beginning to want things to put on a dresser or fireplace. They don’t just want to show off the piece but also show that they are the same as the upper classes.

With over 180 examples of artworks on view, you get an idea of not only paintings but also fashionable trends in architecture, interior decorations, furniture, and much more.

San Francisco is the only U.S. venue for this exhibition, and once it leaves here, it will be on its way back to Europe.

Curator Lynn Federle Orr explained in her catalogue essay: “Like a fine Victorian novel, the story of the Aesthetic Movement is one centered around serious social debates—shifting class structures, the confrontation between science and religion, art’s place in society, the impact of new market forces and a unique emphasis on the middle-class home.”

Victorians loved Asian art and embodied it in their furniture, art, and decorations, as seen in this exhibit.

Wallpaper, which has recently made a comeback in homes, was very fashionable in homes during the British Aesthetic period. Morris & Co. marketed wallpapers, fabrics, and decorative items such as the Flora and Pomona (1883–1885) tapestries. They were designed and executed by the team of Edward Burne-Jones and John Henry Dearle.

The exhibit runs until June 17 at the Legion of Honor, San Francisco.

Sylvia McCleary, based in San Francisco, writes about events, entertainment, and travel. She has traveled to over 80 countries. See and

via Cult of Beauty Exhibit Highlights Victorian Era | Literary & Visual Arts | Arts & Entertainment | Epoch Times

Link to: The Cult of Beauty: The Victorian Avant-Garde 1860–1900 – February 18, 2012 – June 17, 2012


Leave a Comment »

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

“What do you think about this?”

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at
Entries and comments feeds.