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AEstheticism



During the present generation an Art movement has sprung up called AEstheticism, which has been defined as the " Science of the Beautiful and the Philosophy of the Fine Arts," and aims at carrying a love of the beautiful into all the relations of life. The fantastical developments which accompanied the movement brought its devotees into much ridicule about fifteen years ago, and the pages of Punch of that time will be found to happily travesty its more amusing and extravagant aspects. The great success of Gilbert and Sullivan's operetta, " Patience," produced in 1881, was also to some extent due to the humorous allusions to the extravagance of the " AEsthetes." In support of what may be termed a higher AEstheticism, Mr. Ruskin has written much to give expression to his ideas and principles for rendering our surroundings more beautiful. The names of the late Sir Frederic Leighton and of Sir Alma Tadema are conspicuous amongst those who have in their houses carried such principles into effect, and among others who have been and are, more or less, associated with this movement, may be named Rossetti, Burne Jones, Holman Hunt, and William Morris. As a writer on AEstheticism has observed: - When the extravagances attending the movement have been purged away, there may be still left an educating influence, which will impress the lofty and undying principles of Art upon the minds of the people."

For a time, in spite of ridicule, this so-called AEstheticism was the vogue, and considerably affected the design and decoration of furniture of the time. Woodwork was painted olive green; the panels of cabinets, painted in sombre colors, had pictures of sad-looking maidens, and there was an attempt at a "dim religious" effect in our rooms, quite inappropriate to such a climate as that of England. The reaction, however, from the garish and ill-considered colorings of a previous decade or two, has left behind it much good, and with the catholicity of taste which marks the furniture of the present day, people see some merit in every style, and are endeavouring to select that which is desirable without running to the extreme of eccentricity.

Perhaps the advantage thus gained is counterbalanced by the loss of our old "traditions," for amongst the wilderness of reproductions of French furniture, more or less frivolous - of Chippendale, as that master is generally understood - of what is termed "Jacobean" and "Queen Anne" - to say nothing of a quantity of so-called "antique furniture," we are bewildered in attempting to identify this latter end of the nineteenth century with any particular style of furniture. By " tradition " it is intended to allude to the old-fashioned manner of handing down from father to son, or master to apprentice, for successive generations, the knowledge and skill to produce any particular class of object of Art or manufacture. Surely Ruskin had something of this in his mind when he said, " Now, when the powers of fancy, stimulated by this triumphant precision of manual dexterity, descend from generation to generation, you have at last what is not so much a trained artist, as a new species of animal, with whose instinctive gifts you have no chance of contending."

Tradition may be said to still survive in the country cartwright, who produces the farmer's wagon in accordance with custom and tradition, modifying the method of construction somewhat perhaps to meet altered conditions of circumstances, and then ornamenting his work by no particular set design or rule, but partly from inherited aptitude and partly from playfulness or fancy. In the house-carpenter attached to some of our old English family estates, there will also be found, here and there, surviving representatives of the traditional "joyner" of the seventeenth century, and in Eastern countries, particularly in Japan, we find the dexterous joiner or carver of to-day is a descendant of a long line of more or less excellent mechanics.



















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