Humanistic aestheticism

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Humanistic Aestheticism was formed by English essayist Walter Pate and Oscar Wilde as aesthetics which is more concerned with the individual, the self, than with popular movements like Industrialism or Capitalism. In their view art was not meant to instruct and should not concern itself with social, moral, or political guidance. Another tenet of humanist aestheticism is that the artist’s life was even more important than any work that he produced; his life was to be his most important body of work.

Oscar Wilde was a leader in promoting the aestheticism movement near the end of the Nineteenth Century. Wilde was influenced as a college student by the works of the English poet and critic Algernon Charles Swinburne and the American writer Edgar Allan Poe. He advocated freedom from moral restraint and the limitations of society. This point of view contradicted contemporary Victorian conventions.

The most important of Wilde’s critical works, published in May 1891, is a volume titled Intentions. It consists of four essays: “The Decay of Lying,” “Pen, Pencil and Poison,” “The Critic as Artist,” and “The Truth of Masks.”


Cliff's Notes: Oscar Wilde's Aesthetics