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Grolier Club New York - Second Floor Gallery
47 East 60th Street
NY 10022
New York
jsheehan@grolierclub.org
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Under the banner of “Art for Art’s Sake,” the Aesthetic Movement combined a revolutionary philosophy—that pleasure is the highest aim of art, and artistic expression the highest aim of life—with a novel approach to ornament to produce an “artistic lifestyle” that captivated Oscar Wilde, inspired William Morris, and dominated the decorative arts in the period 1870-1890. 
The exceptional artistry and wit of the Aesthetic Movement is revealed in “For Art's Sake: The Aesthetic Movement in Print & Beyond," on view from January 26 - March 11, 2017 at the Grolier Club, NYC. 

The exhibition highlights the crucial role of print in the development of Aestheticism, the first decorative arts movement to thoroughly exploit important nineteenth-century advances in printing and book-making. Stunning chromolithographic pattern books by Pugin, Dresser, Talbert, Audsley and other designers trace the parallel roles of revived “Modern Gothic” ornament and the newly-discovered arts of Japan in the Aesthetic Movement, while houseplan books, design periodicals and trade catalogues of the 1880s show how the “Queen Anne” style came to dominate domestic architecture and décor on both sides of the Atlantic. Picture books by Walter Crane, Howard Pyle, and Kate Greenaway reveal how Aesthetic ideas and motifs influenced a generation of children, as adults were captivated by the books and prints used by members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood to promote their art. A selection of important decorated publisher’s bindings surveys the extraordinary impact of the Aesthetic Movement on this area of the book arts; and finally, the exhibition uses printed ephemera—including trade cards, greeting cards, and sheet music—to show how very easy it was to ridicule the Aesthetes and their enthusiasms. 

The exhibition occasionally looks beyond books to feature decorative objects, including examples of Aesthetic-era china, silver, and brass, whose design or manufacture is connected with print in some interesting way. Most of the material is English or American, reflecting the out-sized popularity of the Aesthetic Movement in those countries; but important examples from France, Germany, and elsewhere are also represented. The more than 100 items on show are drawn from the collection of Eric Holzenberg, who is celebrating his 20th year as director of the Grolier Club.

As a book collector, Eric Holzenberg noted, “The books of the Aesthetic period never got as much play in exhibitions and catalogues as I thought they deserved. The glimpses I had of bold, quirky, sometimes mind-bending examples of binding, illustration, and “artistic printing” produced in this period, coupled with a growing sense of the importance of pattern books, how-to manuals, prints, and ephemera in the transmission of Aesthetic principles and motifs to artisans and members of the artistic public, encouraged me to collect in this field.”

A full color catalogue accompanies the exhibition, covering the Foundations of the Aesthetic Movement; Grammars of Aesthetic Ornament; the Aesthete at Home (Architecture and Interior Design), the Book Beautiful (Binding, Typography and Illustration), and “Nincompoopiana” (Satires on the Aesthetic Movement).

Source: Grolier Club NY