Thursday, January 12, 2012

Aesthetically led

photo Le style et la matière

Silly? I bought a footstool because of the slip of velvet on it was in harmony with my mood after seeing Beauté, Morale, et Volupté dans l'Angleterre d'Oscar Wilde at the Musée d'Orsay or as the exhibit originating at the V & A is known in English, The Cult of Beauty: The Aesthetic Movement 1860-1900. The exhibit will soon head to San Francisco. 

The Aesthetic Movement called for 'art for art's sake' and was a revolt against moralizing views and the industrial age where machines made it possible to turn out furnishings faster than it was possible to design them (well). The aim of the House Beautiful was to be personal; it's furnishings artistic -that is, it should break away from heavy Victorian eclecticism. But as with any historic movement, the impetus for change came from several directions. Without going into all the tenants of the movement and its sometimes fuzzy relation to the Pre-Raphaelites or to Arts and Crafts,  the fact that Japan opened to western commerce in 1862 after a self-imposed trade freeze of 250 years strongly influenced the design sense of the day. 
And my velvet footstool, printed with cranes and foliage, is part of the trend tinted with Asian refinement which swept through France as well as England at the time.

photo Le style et la matière

This vase was another pleasing trouvaille that same day and a continued proof of purchase under the Aesthetic spell.

photo Le style et la matière

I would love to be able to trace this. 

photo Le style et la matière

 Now I suppose I need to surround the fireplace with tiles and put shelving over the mantelpiece where I could display it

Walter Crane  My Lady’s Chamber frontispiece of The House Beautiful by Clarence Cook 

and maybe some blue and white china.

photo Oscar Wilde: Quest Machine

It is an odd thing, but everyone who disappears is said to be seen at San Francisco. It must be a delightful city possess all the attractions of the next world.
O. Wilde

Admittedly, this style could tend more toward an artistic spirit than toward consistent quality of fabrication as did the of Arts and Crafts  ideal. The poseur of design movements, achieving the 'look' was sometimes enough for the Aesthetic philosophy.

photo Le style et la matière

Moving along with the general idea of Aesthetic interiors of the end of the 19th century, though not a quality piece, I also spotted this idiosyncratic character (well, I see what it is, but robbed of its cushions there's a certain gauche charm) and for a mere 35 euros, I thought of putting it in the country house. For Whistler and Godwin the fully orchestrated interior concepts!  Otherwise, a mingling of this and that - antiques, painted sideboards and Japanese decorations - is entirely acceptable! And I've already justified fudging in the paragraph above.

photo Le style et la matière

Not always, but most often, I am the one who leads our own personal aesthetic movements in the household, but this particular chair did not inspire Monsieur. Submission can be necessary for the 
harmonious house beautiful. 
He was probably right, but I still like something about that awkward armchair.


  1. oh i liked that chair - esp. for that price but anyway, i see you're on a slippery slope! can't wait to see how it all ends up!

    happy new year! (decorating the country house - la-di-da! a fund project)


  2. Mlle: Husband says this one is too embarrassing for comments!
    Very true - it's a fun fund project - la di da!
    Happy 2012 to you!

  3. Love that vase, the warm celadon colour harmonises with its soft, almost liquid shape.

  4. Yes, Emile - that was the real find of the day!

  5. When my son was about 11 or so, he asked one morning, "Why are moms so much smarter than dads?" I asked what he meant (his father tested out of college math, does calculus for fun and graduated at the top of his class including law school. "Well," he explained, "When you ask dad what could we should be he house. He never knows. You always do."

    Wish I had that recorded! Love the footstool and the lines on the chair. Good luck with that.

  6. Clearly an intelligent child!
    I've given up on the chair - it won't be there any more anyway. That's okay. I can't buy all the slight temptations I come across - at least not if I can't carry them off un-noticed!

  7. I would suggest those celadon vases are Thai - with their lotus flowers.

  8. Thanks Columnist, I can't make out the markings on the bottom of it!

  9. A vote in the chair's favor?
    Me thinks, Gaye, that it is Mr Wilde's suave pose that got you!