Art for Art's Sake: Aestheticism in Victorian Painting

EF Prettejohn

Research output: Book/ReportAuthored book


This book is the first to explore the distinctive role of painting in the debates surrounding the notion of 'art for art's sake' and Aestheticism in Victorian England. In the London circles of Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Frederic Leighton, this artistic problem became a shared concern: if art is not created for the sake of preaching a moral lesson, or supporting a political cause, or making a fortune, or any other objective, what might art be? Art historian Elizabeth Prettejohn traces the emergence of the debates in the 1860s and their development into the 1870s, focusing especially on the principal protagonists of the Aesthetic Movement and their paintings - some of the most haunting and memorable images in modern art. At the heart of the book are fresh and detailed interpretations of major paintings by Rossetti, James McNeill Whistler, Leighton, Edward Burne-Jones, Albert Moore, and Simeon Solomon. Prettejohn also investigates the underpinnings of the movement in French and German aesthetics and the writings of its two great critics, Algernon Charles Swinburne and Walter Pater. The English painters' search for the formula to best express the idea of 'art for art's sake' was a unified and powerful artistic undertaking, the book demonstrates, and the Aesthetic Movement made important contributions to the history of modern art.
Translated title of the contributionArt for Art's Sake: Aestheticism in Victorian Painting
Original languageEnglish
PublisherYale University Press
Number of pages343
ISBN (Print)9780300135497
Publication statusPublished - 2007

Bibliographical note

Other identifier: 0300135491


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