Art for Art's Sake


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Aestheticism in Victorian Painting

Elizabeth Prettejohn

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In the London circles of Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Frederic Leighton, the notion of “art for art's sake” 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 over this issue in the 1860s and 1870s, focusing especially on the Rossetti, Whistler, Leighton, and other protagonists of the Aesthetic Movement and their paintings—some of the most haunting and memorable images in modern art. 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, Prettejohn demonstrates, and the Aesthetic Movement made important contributions to the history of modern art.

Published for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art

Elizabeth Prettejohn is professor of history of art at the University of Bristol.

"By beginning and ending her study with analysis of art critics who promoted 'art for art's sake' and brilliantly integrating Kant's and Hegel's philosophical principles into her discussion, Prettejohn makes a strong case for an interdisciplinary apprehension of aesthetic movement artist's pursuit of beauty that enables revisionist readings of well-known Victorian paintings. . . . Befitting its topic, the book is replete with resplendent full-color reproduction of the works under discussion. . . . Highly recommended."—Choice

“This is a wonderful book, to be rushed through in a first careering excited read then explored again with more care, and with relish.” - Simon Poe, British Art Journal

"The strenghts. . .of Art for Art's Sake are many. It becomes not only an art historical study of a particular set of practices but a model for art historical methodology itself. . . . Generously illustrated and beautifully produced, it will be of interest to art historians, literary scholars, and those interested in aesthetics for many years to come, and now stands as the most detailed study of Aestheticism in the visual arts." —Amelia Yeates, Journal of Pre-Raphaelite Studies

Winner of the 2008 Historians of British Art Book Award in the Single-Author, Post-1800 category, presented by the Historians of British Art.

Short-listed for the 2008 Sir Banister Fletcher Award presented by the Authors' Club.
ISBN: 9780300135497
Publication Date: February 20, 2008
Publishing Partner: Published for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art
320 pages, 8 x 10
85 b/w + 40 color illus.

Frederic Leighton

Antiquity, Renaissance, Modernity

Edited by Tim Barringer and Elizabeth Prettejohn

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Modern Painters, Old Masters

The Art of Imitation from the Pre-Raphaelites to the First World War

Elizabeth Prettejohn

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