Art for Art's Sake at Design San Francisco

On February 18, The Cult of Beauty: The Victorian Avant-Garde, 1860–1900 opens at the Legion of Honor. This Wednesday, February 1 at 2:30 p.m., the San Francisco Design Center presents The Aesthetic Movement and Interior Design, a panel exploring the movement’s enduring influence on interiors. The discussion will feature exhibition curator Dr. Lynn Federle Orr, design writer and editor Zahid Sardar, interior designer Geoffrey De Sousa and 3D Magazine editor-in-chief, Alisa Carroll.

In advance of this event, Ms. Carroll is today’s guest blogger.

Sideboard, 1865–75

Edward William Godwin, Sideboard, 1865–75, ebonized mahogany with silver plated handles © V&A Images

The British Aesthetic movement championed “Art for art’s sake” and the cultivation of beauty in everyday life. Though it began in the realm of fine art, the movement ultimately transcended the wall of painters’ studios to transform decorative arts, domestic interiors and architecture, inspiring a lifestyle revolution and giving birth to the modern interior design industry.

Peacock, 1887

Arthur Silver, Peacock, 1887, roller printed cotton for Liberty & Co., Rossendale Printing Co. © V&A Images

In the wake of the Industrial Revolution, visionary Aesthetic movement artists such as William Morris, Edward Godwin and Frederic Leighton “became disenchanted with some of the things that came along with rapid changes in society,” explains Orr. “They also became interested in decorating their own homes, and they looked around and didn’t find anything particularly appealing, particularly well-made, any kind of truth in materials. So they started working together, making their own furniture, designing their own wallpapers.”

Chair, ca.1884-6

Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Chair, ca.1884-6, mahogany, with cedar and ebony veneer, carving and inlay of several woods, ivory and abalone shell © V&A Images

Artists also began to devise eclectic, carefully curated environments in their own homes and studios, ultimately creating spaces for clients as well. A tipping point for the interior design profession, the Aesthetic movement also inspired the industry that grew up around it.

Anglo-Japanese furniture designs, 1872–1883

Edward William Godwin, Anglo-Japanese furniture designs, 1872–1883 pen, ink and watercolor on paper © V&A Images

Wednesday’s panel will feature a presentation by Orr chronicling the origins of the movement and the creation of the wildly popular exhibition, as well as a lively conversation about contemporary designers and styles that are taking it forward.

This event is part of Design San Francisco, and is free and open to the public. To RSVP click here.

The Cult of Beauty: The Victorian Avant-Garde, 1860–1900 will be on display at the Legion of Honor from February 18 through June 17, 2012.