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Characteristics of Aestheticism

In the last decades of the 1800s, the search for a new poetry is evident, with a total renunciation of the cult of objective data which, on the other hand, had characterized Positivism and Naturalism. From this derives Aesthetism, an artistic movement born in England, but also a real lifestyle.
The underlying principle of Aestheticism is that of art for art, which enhances the value of artistic beauty and considers art not subject to the rules of common morality and devoid of political and civil intentions.

The absolute exaltation of art translates into the rejection of Realism and bourgeois utilitarianism, which is contrasted with the claim of beauty as a superior experience and the affirmation of a new role of the artist, no longer a singer of progress and the bourgeoisie but, but an exceptional individual who stands out from the crowd.
According to the theory of Aesthetics, the artist must live his life as a work of art and from this derives the figure of the esthete or dandy, that is, the aristocratic and refined person who makes his life a continuous search for beauty. in everyday life. In fact, the esthete hates common life, nurtures a profound contempt for a society dominated by material interest and profit, but at the same time has an obsessive attraction for worldliness, for frivolous life and for useless and precious objects. He intends to live in the cult of an “inimitable life”, according to the expression of D’Annunzio, also marked by the scandal that arouses interest and sensation, substituting the cult of beauty for morality and constantly searching for refined pleasures, impossible for a ordinary person. In him there is also a continuous urge to enjoy fleeting youth, in which the exaltation of pleasure is morbidly linked to corruption and decadence and beauty is understood as the supreme manifestation of the general.
In this sense, we can summarize the key points of the aesthetic ideology:
• the cult of art for art;
• the rejection of common morality;
• contempt for the modern age, for the vulgarity of the mass;
• the search for an aristocratic and refined lifestyle inspired by the cult of beauty and exceptionality;
• the rejection of what is simple and natural.


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