Aesthetic Style

The Aesthetic style was less of an architectural style than an arts movement. You can argue that the Queen Anne style was its manifestation in architecture. The architect EW Godwin was central to the movement, but much of what resulted was painting and in the decorative arts. Oscar Wilde and James McNeill Whistler argued for purity and simplicity, criticising the typical eclectic style that was concurrent.

Driven by slogans such as 'Art for art's sake', the Aesthetic Movement, like the Queen Anne style and Arts and Crafts movement, was a reaction to the excesses of the Gothic revival.

In architecture it was characterised by plain materials and surfaces, and in the decorative arts, it was influenced by arts of Japan and China.

The Aesthetic Movement initially offered a contrast to the opulence of the Classical styles, having simplicity, honesty and plainness as its objectives, but a decorative interpretation, with Japanese and other ethnic influences, corrupted the original ideals. In conflict too with the raised profile given to craftsmanship, the rise of mechanisation brought machine-made components into use, and making more affordable woodwork, plaster, fabrics and furniture exhibiting design influences from the Aesthetic movement.

See also typical Aesthetic colours.