This installation highlights a great strength of The Met collection—arts of the late 19th-century Anglo-American Aesthetic movement. Featuring a range of art furniture, ceramics, stained glass, metalwork, textiles, painting, and sculpture—most from the Museum's permanent holdings and a few select loans—the display explores Aestheticism as a cultural phenomenon of its time that promoted beauty as an artistic, social, and moral force, particularly in the domestic realm.
The catalyst for the phenomenon's widespread popularity in the United States was the 1876 Centennial International Exhibition, held in Philadelphia, and Aestheticism remained a driving force through the late 1880s, especially in New York. The period witnessed the flourishing of an artistic culture and lifestyle movement that also encompassed painting, sculpture, and works on paper; the proliferation of art publications, clubs, and societies; an intense interest in collecting and decoration; and the founding of the nation's major art museums. Aesthetic furnishings and objects were intended for fully integrated domestic spaces—as seen, for example, in The Met's latest historical interior, the Worsham-Rockefeller Dressing Room, on view nearby—and reveal the progressive tastes and collaborative spirit of the era.
John Bennett (1840–1907). Charger, 1877. Ceramic; Diam. 17 in. x D. 2 in. (43.2 x 5.1 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Barrie A. and Deedee Wigmore Foundation Gift, 2008 (2008.176)