The integration of art and beauty into every aspect of life was one of the foremost tenets of the Aesthetic Movement. Artists who subscribed to this ideal stepped outside of the confines of their medium of choice and experimented with all variety of design: painters became furniture designers and architects designed textiles. This week’s FRAME|WORK features two luscious tapestries from the Museums’ permanent collections included in the special exhibition The Cult of Beauty: The Victorian Avant-Garde, 1860–1900 (on view at the Legion of Honor through June 17). Created by Edward Burne-Jones for Morris & Co., Flora and Pomona exemplify the aesthetics of the Aesthetic Movement.
Edward Burne-Jones was among the founders of William Morris’s influential Morris, Marshal, Faulkner and Company, Art Workmen group, which aimed to imbue interior design with a new sophistication in color and pattern and strove to create interiors that evoked the personal sentiments of their owners. Textiles came to represent a cornerstone of Aesthetic design principles in both fashion and decorative motifs servicing the ideal of the House Beautiful.
Flora and Pomona adhere to the Aesthetic style in nearly all aspects: the natural plant forms in the background are flattened, favoring repetition over illusionism; lilies, a preferred Aesthetic motif, comprise the dominant background decoration; the figures don unstructured Aesthetic-style dresses that draw from Medieval and Renaissance antecedents; and both costumes highlight the fashionable Aesthetic palette, most notably the muted terracotta gown of Pomona.
The subjects—Flora, the goddess of flowers and springtime, and Pomona, the goddess of fruit trees, gardens and orchards—demonstrate Burne-Jones’s particular affinity for portraying gods, goddesses and ancient legend. Drawing on a wide range of influences from contemporary Japan to Roman and Greek antiquity to medieval styles, the Aesthetes created objects of outright, but utilitarian beauty.
Don’t miss these two lovely ladies and the rest of The Cult of Beauty, currently on view at the Legion of Honor!