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House Beautiful Oscar Wilde and the Aesthetic Interior

written by Charlotte Gere

Lund Humphries Publishers | ISBN 9780853318187

Hardback – 144 pages


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Published in the centenary year of Oscar Wilde's death, this volume celebrates Wilde's association with the Aesthetic Movement, which flourished in Britain and America in the late 19th century and which Wilde came to personify. Examining the originsand development of the Aesthetic Movement and its influence on the decorative arts, Charlotte Gere traces the people with whom Wilde associated: the artists, architects and designers he admired and the houses and interiors by which he was influenced. His theories on art and interior decoration, which drew heavily on John Ruskin, Walter Pater and William Moris, were disseminated not only in the drawing rooms of the socially elite, but also through his lecture tours in America and the United Kingdom. On his marriage to Constance in 1884, Wilde took a house in Tite Street, Chelsea, and commissioned the architect Edward Godwin to design the interiors. Detailed descriptions survive to provide an insight into Wilde's highly developed sense of the "house beautiful" For the ordinary middle-class householder, the elements of the "artistic interior" were explained through numerous books and magazines giving detailed instructions on decoration, the use of colour and pattern, the choice of furniture and the creation of harmony in the home. Lesley Hoskins, in the final chapter, examines the popular expression of the Aesthetic Movement, drawing on these published sources as well as contemporary photographs and furniture catalogues. For Wilde, the house beautiful was short-lived. In spite of achieving acclaim and wealth as a playwright, he was ruined by his notorious affair with Lord Alfred Douglas and the trials brought by Doublas's father, the Marquess of Queensberry, which left him bankrupt, imprisoned and ultimately exiled. This volume offers a comprehensive account of the aesthetic interior across a wide spectrum of late 19th-century society, illustrated with a selection of evocative images, some of which are published for the first time.

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