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International Decorative Art

Aesthetic Movement, about 1865–1900

The Aesthetic Movement, which began in England, was a reaction against Victorian decoration. Unlike proponents of the Arts & Crafts Movement, members of the Aesthetic Movement believed that art did not have to convey moral messages. They focused instead on the idea of a cult of beauty and believed art should provide refined pleasure. Life, they asserted, should emulate art. The most pervasive (though not the only) stylistic influence on Aestheticism was Japonisme, a fascination with the artistic motifs of Japan. Pots were made in traditional Western shapes but were decorated with Japanese blossoms, pine branches, birds and other natural forms. The understated and simplified decoration was a contrast to the profusely decorated Victorian furnishings and anticipated modernism.