This is the last week to see The Cult of Beauty: The Victorian Avant-Garde 1860–1900, which closes on Sunday, June 17, at the Legion of Honor. San Francisco has been the perfect host city in which to display this groundbreaking exhibition due in no small part to the city’s rich Victorian past. At a recent panel discussion, "Extravagance and Industry," hosted by ArtPoint, participants revealed the many architectural remains of the Aesthetic Movement that remain visible throughout San Francisco today.
Since its invention in the mid 19th century, photography has been at the forefront of progressive art making traditions—so its presence in The Cult of Beauty: The Victorian Avant-Garde, 1860–1900 is no surprise. By the 1890s, photography was a half-century old and its supporters vociferously claimed it to be an independent art form, advocating for the idea of "art photography." Today we celebrate the birthday of Julia Margaret Cameron, one of the greatest photographers from this period and whose work is currently on display in The Cult of Beauty at the Legion of Honor (closing this Sunday, June 17).
Julia Margaret Cameron (English, 1815–1879). Portrait of a Woman (Louise Beatrice de Fonblanque), 1868. Albumen silver print from wet-collodion-on-glass negative mounted to a heavier sheet. Museum purchase, Mrs. Milton S. Latham Fund. 1992.138
The corset looms large in special exhibitions at both the de Young and the Legion of Honor. Jean Paul Gaultier, the subject of the de Young's The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk , integrated this iconic garment into his prêt-à-porter collections as early as 1983. Meanwhile, over at the Legion of Honor in The Cult of Beauty: The Victorian Avant-Garde, 1860 –1900 (on view through June 17) the artists of the Aesthetic Movement rejected the corset in defiance of Victorian era fashions and social mores. Tonight, Friday Nights at the de Young explores the surprisingly dynamic world of Haute Corsets , with local corset makers Dark Garden and a screening of Truth or Dare , in which Madonna gets into the groove wearing Gaultier's unforgettable cone bra corset. Before you lace up, bone up on the fascinating history of this beguiling bodice!
Left: Emil Larsson, Body corset worn by Madonna, Blond Ambition World Tour, 1990. Dazed & Confused, April 2008 © Emil Larsson; Right: Edward Burne-Jones (English, 1833–1898). Pomona, 1886–1920. Wool, silk, cotton; tapestry weave. Museum purchase, Dorothy Spreckels Munn Bequest Fund. 2001.120.2
In the special exhibition Making the Modern Picture Book: Children’s Books from the Victorian Era (on view at the Legion of Honor through June 17), the intimate art of 19th-century story telling is revealed. England at this time was undergoing a formative period in the design, production, and marketing of children’s books, which were often gifted as rewards or prizes, and reinforced socially acceptable behavior in the guise of entertainment. Maintaining the principles of the Aesthetic Movement, publishers and renowned illustrators achieved a compelling fusion of art and literature.
William Nicholson (British, 1872–1949). An Alphabet: L is for Lady, 1898. Color lithograph. Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts. 1963.30.1351.13
Allegory of the Monoceros, 2008 and Allegory of the Infinite Mortal, 2010. Woven tapestry. 108 x 75 inches