Origin and Definition

The term "aestheticism" originates from the Greek word "aisthesis," which means "sensation" or "perception."

Aestheticism is an artistic movement that emerged in Europe and America during the late 19th century.

In England the movement reacted to the utilitarianism and materialism of the Industrial Revolution and emphasized beauty, artifice, and sensory experience.

Features :

- art should be valued for its own sake and not for any moral, social, or political purpose. Its motto was: 'Art for art's sake',

- strong emphasis on the sensory experience of art, including its visual and tactile qualities.

- frequently expressed through elaborate, decorative art and design, with a focus on rich colors, intricate patterns, and ornate embellishments.

- closely associated with the idea of the "dandy," a figure who embodied the ideals of beauty, elegance, and refinement. Dandies were often linked with decadence and excess.


-Beauty and sensuality played an enormous role in art and life. Art should be valued for its ability to elicit a purely aesthetic response in the viewer or reader.

-Decadence and excess: Aestheticism was a reaction against the strict moral and social codes of the time.

-Individualism and self-expression: the individual and the concept of self-expression were celebrated. Art should reflect the artist's unique vision and personality.

Notable writers:

Oscar Wilde: 'The Picture of Dorian Gray': This novel tells the story of a young man who sells his soul to preserve his youthful beauty and is a prime example of Aestheticism in literature.

Algernon Charles Swinburne (influenced by the French Symbolists), James McNeill Whistler and Dante Gabriel Rossetti also contributed to the Aesthetic movement.

Vocabulary list

  1. Aestheticism: an artistic movement that emerged in the late 19th century in Europe and America, emphasizing the importance of beauty, artifice, and sensory experience.
  2. Utilitarianism: the belief that the value of something is determined by its usefulness or practicality, rather than its beauty or aesthetics.
  3. Materialism: the belief that material possessions and physical comfort are the most important things in life.
  4. Art for art's sake: the idea that art should be valued for its own sake, rather than for any moral, social, or political purpose.
  5. Sensory experience: the experience of using the senses (sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell) to perceive the world around us.
  6. Ornate: highly decorated or embellished.
  7. Decorative: serving to adorn or embellish something.
  8. Dandy: a man who places a great importance on his appearance, style, and elegance.
  9. Decadence: moral or cultural decline, often characterized by excessive indulgence in pleasure and luxury.
  10. Excess: an amount or quantity beyond what is necessary or reasonable.
  11. Individualism: the belief in the importance of the individual, and the idea that each person should be free to make their own choices and express their own ideas.
  12. Self-expression: the expression of one's own personality, feelings, and ideas through various forms of art, such as writing, painting, or music.