Appendix 12: The Aesthetic Movement 1875 - 1885

Overview

A British and American phenomenon of the 1870s and 1880s, the Aesthetic Movement was a cult of beauty which sought to elevate the status of all objects to works of art.

Aesthetics, as a term denoting a theory of taste', began its life in the 18th century. In Blackwood's Magazine 10 (1821), the famous British poet, Samuel Coleridge, lamented that he could "find a more familiar word than aesthetics for works of 'taste'" and/or 'criticism'." In 1842, according to the British culture critic, Raymond Williams, aesthetics was referred to as "a silly pedantical term ".

For example, in 1859, in his Lectures on Metaphysics and Logic, the British philosopher, William Hamilton observes that as he understands it, "aesthetic" stands for

"the Philosophy of Taste, the theory of the Fine Arts, the Science of the Beautiful, etc."

And, moreover, the term is also accepted with this meaning in France, Germany and numerous other European countries. But, he says, another term, apolaustic, already has a meaning for what aesthetic implies. Aesthetic and its cognates, regardless, became more and more common, even though its users betrayed an uncertainty about whether it referenced "taste" or simply "the beautiful". By 1880, the noun aesthete was being widely used, most often -- like the term muckraker journalist -- in a derogatory sense. Today, much like muckraker, the term aesthetic movement refers nostalgically to an era when exciting, fresh set of design motifs were introduced.

The Aesthetics Movement began in Britain, where in the 1850s and 1860s, the designers codified the theories which were to lie behind much Aesthetic design. The decorative arts entered this arena under the banner of the Aesthetic Movement. Many of these theories and designs were captured by two books:--

Owen Jones (1809-1874) The Grammar of Ornament: all 100 color plates from the folio edition of the great Victorian sourcebook of historic design London : Day and Son, 1856; reprinted New York : Dover Publications, 1987 and

Christopher Dresser (1834—1904) Principles of Decorative Design. London. 1873

For an example of how the term was employed in a derogatory sense, read this document

The Aesthetic Movement had successfully assimilated the Japanese taste which had been seized upon after the first Japanese artifacts had been displayed at the 1862 International Exhibition. Japanese motifs -- especially the motifs characterized by asymmetry and delicacy -- were absorbed into the Arts and Crafts ideals in the work of Edward William Godwin (1833-1886), Bruce J. Tal­bert and several architect-designers .


In the 1860s and 1870s Godwin and Norman Shaw had introduced an architectural style known as Queen Anne Revival, using red brick in a form of domestic, secular architec­ture removed from the earlier Gothic, in their houses at Bedford Park, the first garden suburb begun in 1876, and Tite Street, Chelsea.

As symbols of the Aesthetic Movement, Oriental designs such as the blue and white china and/or iconic emblems for the peacock, lily or sunflower.

Art had reached the middle class home with new fabrics for women's dresses and new books, such as those by Kate Greenaway, to entertain in the nursery. This movement only had credence in England and America and was made much fun of within the context of a final flourish before the new century was ushered in. Yet even those who set out to ridicule it gave it respect; for example, the costumes for Patience, or Bunthorne's Bride: An Aesthetic Opera were designed by W. S. Gilbert using 'authentic' Liberty & Co. fabrics.

In 1890 William Morris began ... the Kelmscott Press, which ... lead to British domination in the art of fine printing and typography for many years.... In 1894 -- with illustrations by Aubrey Beardsley -- The Yellow Book was published. In 1897 Pilkington's estab­lished their pottery with designs by Walter Crane, Voysev and Lewis F. Day. Also in 1894 the Belgian Henry van de Velde designed four rooms for Samuel Bing's new shop, La Maison de l'Art Nouveau in Paris, influenced by his visit to Liberty & Co. in 1891. In 1898 the Grand Duke of Hesse commissioned designs from C. R. Ashbee and Mackay Hugh Baillie Scott for furniture, made by the Guild of Handicraft, for the artists' colony set up at Darmstadt.

Britain's leadership as a center of design began to ripple abroad.

Source: Isabelle Anscombe, "The Aesthetic Movement". In Philippe Garner, The Encyclopedia of Decorative Arts, 1890-1940 NY: Galahad Books, 1978, pages 138-140

Origins of the Aesthetic Movement:--

"Art for Art's Sake"

The Aesthetic Movement emerged in Britain out of the design reform movement during the 1860s and 1870s, in which the chief impulse was "Art for Arts Sake".

The guiding principle of the Aesthetic movement, the concept, Art for Art's Sake, argues for an autonomous value of art, a definition where preoccupations with morality, utility, realism and didacticism are not relevant to an art's quality or value.

I admit that while I had heard the phrase, "Art  for Art's Sake" all my life, I had not given it much consideration as a phrase with a history. Wrong again, of course!  It has a history, but how much to give here, merely to help others who -- like me -- don't know about the background of this phrase. Understanding the phrase, though, seems to help in understanding about the workings of the Aesthetic Movement. Dorothy Richardson -- sourced below -- writes about the phrase's meaning during the Aesthetics Movement.

I also admit that while I have NEVER heard the phrase, "aesthetic craze" before, until recently I encountered the term in a book by William Dean Howells, -- Annie Kilburn -- page 717 of the Library of America edition.

My suspicion aroused, intuitively, I looked further and soon found that, yes, the Aesthetic Movement was satirized by many critics in the 1880s: for one, Gilbert and Sullivan's Patience (1881). Another clue is the article, "The Aesthetic Craze," in the Jeweler's Circular and Horological Review 13, no 3 April 1882, page 65 -- have yet, though, to actually read this gem.

Still another is Regina Lee Blaszyzk's "The Aesthetic Moment: Chain Decorators and Consumer Demand, and Technological Change in the Pottery Industry," Winterthur Portfolio 29, no 2/3, pages 121-153 -- subscription needed.

A fever  developed for collecting artistic works, and home interiors became expressions of artistic taste, generating the term, "Household Art".

Source: Martha Crabill McClaugherty, "Household Art: Creating the Artistic Home,1868-1893" Winterthur Portfolio 18, No. 1,Spring, 1983, pages 1-26.

The Aesthetic Movement's Underlying Principles

The Benediction of Good Taste

The decorative arts were thought to be admirably suited to women, not only because they were associated with the adornment of the home but also because by their very nature -- painstaking, delicate, refined -- such arts were considered suitably "feminine". Since the Aesthetic movement preached that beautiful surroundings promoted spiritual and mental health, it became fashionable for women to involve themselves directly in decorating their homes. To display that you possessed exquisite taste became as important as dressing well and looking beautiful.

voysey inlay

For woodworking, the underlying principles of the movement emphasized "art in the production of furniture", which was a negative reaction to the highly elaborate products of mainstream Victorian taste. Instead, aestheticism stressed simple forms and uncluttered surfaces, such as inlay, marquetry, cloissonne

In the Asethetic Movement's credo, often, ornament was placed asymmetrically.

At the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876, Americans were exposed to art objects from a variety of nations and times, thus style was much influenced by:

Japanese decoration,

late 17th- and early 18th-century English domestic design,

Chinese motifs in furniture

blue and white Chinese porcelain.

Where they could, designers included examples from Greek, Persian, Moorish, Egyptian and other exotic styles.Typical motifs included sunflowers, fan shapes, peacock feathers, and bamboo.



For those who could afford it, architects did not merely design a house. Instead, "homes" were designed and decorated through the collaborative efforts of designers, architects and craftsmen. Designing began with the furniture, then the interior rooms were decorated, and the structure itself was set appropriately in the surrounding landscape. Terms that emerged from this practice included both "organic architecture" and "vernacular architecture"


" Japanese Furniture"

philip webb chair

THE Japanese use very little of what we call furniture; trays, stands, and similar small artless take the place of tables or chairs. Their inlaid work, sometimes on a considerable scale, such as open shelves for the display of porcelain or the like, is apparently the original of all our papier mache manufactures (though the Japanese material is wood, not paper), and is of singular beauty and excellence in that line. Nothing can be more brilliant than the general aspect of such a set of shelves in black lacquer work, inlaid with designs, in coloured mother-of-pearl, of birds, flowers, fruit-laden branches of trees, and so on. The principle of all Japanese decoration is un­symmetrical. Thus we shall find ornamental figurework of this sort scattered over the plain surface just where the artist chooses to place it, and without his feeling at all bound to provide a balance just for a saliency there. The fine sense of the people is evinced in the fact that the result­ing design does not look unpleasantly ragged or straggling; it is emancipated from systematic restrictions, yet exquisitely in its place, and full of nitid (sic) nicety. The lacquer used by the Japanese is composed, among other (and we believe unaamed) ingredients, of the sap or juice of the tree named Rhus vernix, and the oil of the Bignonia tomentosa. But all modern lacquer-work is considered poor in comparison with the ancient, the components of which remain more or less a secret. Fine old specimens are in great request among the natives themselves; as much as some 60 pound sterling being forthcoming from a Japanese gentleman's purse, it is said, for a choice lacquer-box hardly a foot square. Even the modern work, whether with gilt and iridescent Inlays, or with raised figures in gilding, is often charming enough to any pure taste; it is only by habit and connoisseurship that one learns to slight it relatively to the old.

Source: Edward William Godwin, "Decorative Manufactures of Japan", The Building News June 21, 1867.

queen anne chair anatomy

Pictured above right, for example, is a chair designed --Queen Anne Revival style -- in 1876 by the architect-designer, Philip Webb, and used in 1881-1883 -- Webb designed the noted "Bell Brothers Offices". On the chair, the part that joins the top of the back posts has an obvious combination of Queen Anne and Chinese design, as does the slat-back with straight sides. (For traditonal Queen Anne design, these same parts would have the traditional cyma curve. See image drawn by the noted British woodworker-magazine-editor, Charles Hayward , on right, below.) Incorrectly, I have seen this chair attributed to another architect, Norman Shaw. For background, see Sheila Kirk, Philip Webb, Pioneer of Arts and Crafts Architecture New York: Willy, 2005, pages 252-255, with image on page 255.


... regarding a chair illustrated in Jeremy Cooper's book...

You are correct in thinking that the design of the chair is [Queen Anne] revivalist in the sense of early 18th-century examples of a similar type. It is indeed reminiscent of those chairs with cabriole legs, serpentine crest rail and curved splat which are often referred to as 'Queen Anne' chairs ....

Confusingly, during the 18th century such chairs were referred to as 'India back' chairs'. But this is something of a misnomer since they were not made in India, nor did their design originate there. In fact the design is a fusion of Chinese and British forms but the word 'India' or 'Indies' was used generically at the time to refer to different geographical areas as far apart as Barbados and Japan.

During the last quarter of the nineteenth century Queen Anne style (or what was perceived as such) was one of many historic styles taken up by the Victorians and either copied, reproduced or emulated in their designs in some way. Alongside these historicist styles other new forms also appeared and 'japonisme', or the influence of oriental art and design, was one of them. However, revivals of 18th-century designs which fused oriental design and British design are distinct from this trend. Therefor in spite of the oriental influences apparent in the early 18th-century chair and its late 19th-century revival counterpart, I do not think it would be accurate to describe the revival piece as an example of 'japonisme'.

An recommended resource for deciphering this period is Pauline Agius, British Furniture 1880-1915 (Suffolk: Antique Collector's Club, 1978): it outlines many of the trends in furniture design during the late 19th century, with chapters on both historic revivals and oriental influences.

Source: email from Louisa Collins, Assistant Curator, Furniture, Textiles and Fashion Department Victoria and Albert Museum



godwin's aestheticism wallpaper

As a movement, acute observers considered Aestheticism a reaction to the excesses of mid-century revivals, like Neo-Gothicism, the Queen Anne Revival. Aestheticism -- its aim: to reunite the beautiful and useful -- used motifs from nature, especially as decoration on surfaces. Embellished with subtle coloration, natural forms -- simplified, stylized and flattened into patterns -- were combined, leading to the use of contrasting materials:-- marquetry, inlay, cloisonne or other flat surface decoration. On the left, for example, is an 1874 -- Butterfly brocade -- wallpaper design by Edward William Godwin (1833-1886).



Designers re-interpreted and combined sources, including historical periods and cultures, and exploited industrial processes, both new and established, to create an entirely new style.

Says the American art historian, Noel Riley,

While detail of surface decoration was intricate, color schemes were more subtle, so that the whole became a unified form when viewed from a distance.

















dresser's rococo revival furniture
 

(The image on the left comes originally from Christopher Dresser, Principles of Decorative Design London: 1873, page 68, which Dresser declares, "is utterly bad furniture".)



Jacobean Motifs

Bruce Talbert (1838-81), in his Gothic Forms Applied to Furniture (Birmingham 1867; Boston 1873), provided the furniture trade with designs inspired by 17th-century Jacobean furniture, utilizing straight wood and revealed construction, and emphasizing surface decoration of inlays, low-relief, or incised carving which were taken up by the trade in both Britain and the United States. This Art or, as it became known in the US, Eastlake furniture, was often ebonized and included cabinets with a profusion of shelves to display Art objects. In the 1870s, Gothic and Jacobean designs were gradually supplanted by the English Queen Anne style and its American equivalent, known as the Colonial Revival, which predominantly drew inspiration from English 18th-century prototypes.

Nature Motifs

Following the prescriptions of such public philosophers about taste as John Ruskin, Jones and Dresser embraced Nature as a central component of their aesthetic ideals. In this sense, is the idea that nature, together with the best designs of different eras and cultures (increasingly accessible through public collections and exhibitions, and studied in design schools), should serve as models to be appropriated and adapted by the modern designer for contemporary use.

Greek, Egyptian, Islamic, and Chinese Motifs

Jones's Grammar of Ornament illustrated various design sources, including. Greek, Egyptian, Islamic, and Chinese; and Dresser, a botanist fascinated by plant structure, developed a form of conventionalized plant-based ornament expressive of dynamic growth.

Both believed that design should be appropriate to function, expressed dramatically in Dresser's starkly geometric electroplated silver tableware; and also in fitness of purpose — for example, that the decoration of flat surfaces, such as textiles and wallpapers, should reject the illusion of depth in favor of two-dimensional patterning.

Japanese Design Motifs

Other designers tried furniture that tended to be rectilinear?

Japanese design profoundly influenced Aesthetic Movement designers (Dresser himself visited Japan in 1876-7). After the invasion of Japanese territorial waters by the American navy in 1853, interest in Asian materials, especially artistic, soared. Japanese artistic creations, especially blue-and-white ceramics, the Willow design, cloisonnés, ivories, bronzes, lacquers, and textiles, were shown at the international exhibitions in London (1862), Paris (1867), and Philadelphia (1876), and were available from retailers such as Liberty & Co., in London (around 1875). 

Manufacturers and craftsmen were drawn to the high quality of workmanship, and designers to Japanese geometry and abstraction, novel to Western eyes. Western design tradition was challenged by devices such as the apparently arbitrary cropping of shapes and asymmetry, with the result that, as Clarence Cook declared in his book What Shall We Do With Our Walls? (New York, 1880), even

"the classic laws of symmetry and unity are no longer to be considered the absolute rulers of the field of decorative art."

Japanese and Chinese forms were Westernized, as seen in the Japanese architectural elements adapted by Godwin to create his Anglo-Japanese furniture. Oriental shapes were adapted for use in ceramics, as were straight-sided vessels or shapes derived from Chinese metalwork.

(Godwin influenced the design motifs of the architect-designer, C F A Voysey, a significant figure in the Arts and Crafts movement in Britain, and whose designs in turn influenced Americans such as Gustav Stickley and Harvey Ellis.

Source: David Gebhard, G. F. A. Voysey, Architect Los Angeles: Hennessey and Ingalls, 1975, page ?.)

In due couse, Western designs were "Orientalized", mostly by the injection of Japanese motifs. Led by Tiffany & Co. in New York, silver and plated wares were particularly strongly influenced by Oriental motifs, The influence of Japan was felt in Europe, particularly France, where Japonisme flourished in ceramics, glass, and metalwork. The horror vacui (fear of emptiness) characterizing most later 19th-century design was occasionally tempered by blank areas of space opposite an asymmetrically arranged motif, although taste often favored objects embellished with a profusion of designs associated with the Orient. These included animals (frogs, bats), birds (cranes, storks), insects (butterflies, dragonflies), plants (bamboo, pine branches, cherry blossom, chrysanthemums), objects (fans and circular family crests known as coons), and wave patterns. Other motifs were lilies, bulrushes, artists' palettes, easels, peacocks and peacock feathers, and sunflowers, which came to epitomize the movement.

The Aesthetic Movement in Exhibitions

The Aesthetic Movement reached a wide audience at the international exhibitions held between 1871 and 1878 in London, Vienna, Philadelphia, and Paris, and at the showrooms of furnishers such as Morris & Co. in London and Cottier & Co. in New York.

The movement was popularized by a series of house-decorating manuals aimed at the public, such as Hints on Household Taste (London 1868; Boston 1872) by the British writer Charles Locke Eastlake (1836-1906), which encouraged consumers to discriminate when furnishing an artistic interior while taking into account their individual means. Eastlake helped to popularize the reforming design principles of A.W.N. Pugin, Street, Shaw, and Seddon by advocating truth to materials and honest construction.

An unprecedented urban expansion, together with an increase in mechanized manufacture at all levels, created a strong demand as well as capacity for Art objects of all types. Even manufacturers not traditionally associated with advanced design employed freelance designers, or opened Art departments for the production of artistic furniture, ceramics, and metalwork, to mention a few. New or revived manufacturing techniques encompassed every sphere of production, and included an interest in artistic glazes in ceramic manufacture and the emulation of the oriental technique of cloisonné by metal manufacturers. New materials came into vogue: cast iron and rattan were increasingly used for furniture, and media such as stained glass and ceramic tiles were incorporated into domestic settings on a scale never seen before or since.

In his influential 1878 manual The House Beautiful Clarence Cook (1828–1900) stressed to his American audience the importance of selecting from different periods and harmoniously combining disparate elements to create a coherent, beautiful whole. The remarkable stylistic unity which resulted was partly because many of the key designers produced work for the whole gamut of decorative arts such as Walter Crane (1845–1915), who designed furniture, ceramics, glass, metalwork, textiles, wallpapers, and book illustrations. Ceramic and metalwork design showed a typically eclectic approach and often blended different themes, so that a vase with a Persian shape often employed decorative motifs from Japanese, Renaissance, and Egyptian origins.

How Unity Was Achieved

Unity was nevertheless also achieved because the appreciation of the sensory qualities of materials encouraged a new freedom in the mixing of media, resulting in painted panels, stamped leatherwork, ceramic tiles, and cloisonné panels being incorporated into furniture and clock cases, for example. Textiles and wallpapers benefited from the emphasis on flat patterning and the use of a variety of sources. They were produced in subtle secondary or tertiary colours, particularly green and gold, which aimed at a subdued and rich effect. The flat, flowing, and curvilinear naturalism of some wallpaper and textile designs were precursors to the French Art Nouveau, while a reaction against the rich density of Aesthetic interiors contributed to the reactionary simplicity and minimalism of much early Modernist design.

During the Aesthetic movement the laws of the market economy affected the production and promulgation of designs. Firms such as Morris & Co. built up archives of stained-glass cartoons which could be adapted to new commissions. Paintings by artists with Aesthetic leanings such as Albert Moore (1841–93) were copied from engravings and appeared on ceramics, stained glass, and other media in Britain and America, often without acknowledgment or permission. In an attempt to prevent copying of the designs for which they had paid, manufacturers often registered their designs at the Patent Office, indicated by a diamond-shaped registration mark on their goods. The cult of the industrial designer was bolstered by Christopher Dresser, whose name or facsimile signature appeared on a number of the pieces of metalwork and ceramics he designed.

Art Furniture of the 1870s developed from the Reformed Gothic of the 1850s and 1860s, a style advanced by a number of innovative architect-designers in England who "Reformed" or re-interpreted the Gothic style. The seeds were sown in the 1840s by A.W.N. Pugin (1812-52), whose simplest furniture designs show an understanding of the underlying principles of Gothic form and construction, ideas which were encouraged in the publications of the French architect Eugene Viollet-le-Duc (1814-79). In England the Ecclesiological Society advocated a return to early Anglican church ritual, leading architects including George Edmund Street (1824-81), William Butterfield (1814-1900), and William White (1825-1900) towards the massive forms of 13th- and 14th- century Gothic in their ecclesiastical and secular furniture. Often large in scale - it is sometimes called Muscular Gothic - this furniture featured revealed construction, architectural elements such as sturdy stump columns and chamfering, inlaid geometric decoration, and prominent hardware. At the London International Exhibition (1862), furniture designed or decorated by Richard Norman Shaw (1831-1912), William Burges (1827-81), John Pollard Seddon (1827-1906), Philip Webb (1831-1915), and William Morris (1834-96) showed the revived interest in medieval painted furniture.

By the late 1860s, the Reformed Gothic style had laid the foundations for the Art Furniture of the 1870s. Two seminal publications, published and circulated widely in Britain and the United States, set the tone. Charles Locke Eastlake's Hints on HoUsehold Taste was aimed at a wide audience and addressed the importance of practicality in the design, construction, and decoration of furniture in the context of an artistic interior. Even more influential were the illustrations provided by Bruce James Talbert in his Gothic Forms Applied to Furniture (1867), which successfully drew on 17th-century English vernacular prototypes to reduce the massiveness of Reformed Gothic to a more domestic - and commercially successful - scale. Both publications paved the way for the popularity of Art Furniture.

In the 1870s a fashion developed for ebonized and painted furniture, stemming partly from the much-exhibited versions of a cabinet designed c.1871 by Thomas Edward Collcutt (1840–1924; see p.257). This cabinet boasted a Talbert-derived architectural framework with Gothic details, such as the canopy over the upper structure. The cupboard doors were inset with painted figurative panels and complemented by profuse shelves, one backed with a bevelled mirror to reflect the Art objects placed on it. There was none of the heavy carving that Talbert and Eastlake rejected, and much of the decorative effect was derived instead from mouldings.

These features were to be found on much Aesthetic cabinet furniture over the next fifteen years, when other items suitable for showing off objects, such as overmantles incorporating numerous shelves, and hanging cabinets also became popular.

Furniture designed during the 1870s also reflected the wide variety of influences to which designers were exposed. The marquetry devised by Owen Jones adapted elements from an eclectic range of sources including Moorish and classical prototypes. A knowledge of ancient Egyptian prototypes was demonstrated by the painter William Holman Hunt (1827–1910), who in 1857 designed a Thebes stool (named after the site of Egyptian excavations); similar designs were produced by Ford Madox Brown (1821–93) for Morris & Co. and were patented by Liberty & Co. in 1883.

An interest in Japanese art prompted W.E. Nesfield (1835–88) to design a folding screen with Japanese motifs in the late 1860s. Thomas Jeckyll, who incorporated Japanese motifs in his Jacobean oak furniture, exploited both Japanese and Hispano-Moresque themes in the attenuation and complexity of the built-in shelves he designed for the Peacock Room, named after James McNeill Whistler's (1834–1903) japanesque painted scheme. This led to Godwin pioneering a type of furniture influenced by oriental sources, published by the London cabinetmaker William Watt in Art Furniture (1877). Godwin's Anglo-Japanese style adapted decorative and constructional devices gleaned from Japanese prints illustrating domestic fitments and woodwork to create a series of highly rectilinear deal buffets. They were ebonized to resemble oriental lacquered furniture and were constructed from symmetrical arrangements of straight horizontal and vertical lines, achieving their effect, as he put it, "by the grouping of solid and void and by more or less broken outline." In these, and in his other Anglo-Japanese designs, surface decoration was minimal and confined to panels of embossed leather paper and geometric, incised gold lines.

By the mid-1870s the Queen Anne style, an inaccurate title referring to architecture inspired by 18th-century English design as well as other sources, had begun to influence furniture. Neo-Georgian pediments and complex glazed fronts appeared on display cabinets by designers such as Thomas E. Collcutt.

The revival of interest in 17th-century ornament, sometimes known as the Wrenaissance after the architect Sir Christopher Wren, led firms such as Collinson & Lock to produce delicately scaled ivory-inlaid rosewood cabinets. Godwin designed polished mahogany and walnut furniture with attenuated, curving lines and slender, tapering legs, lending objects an increasingly lightweight appearance. Meanwhile, the work of commercial firms, such as James Lamb of Manchester, produced furniture reflecting the latest fashions.

From the 1860s, furniture detailing became even finer and the complexity of cabinets increased, with more and more elaborate panels appearing in the work of H.W. Batley and Thomas Harris. Commercial firms such as James Lamb of Manchester blended the fashionable designs into their work. From the 1860s, the birth of the Adam Revival style, named after the 18th-century architect-designer, led many manufacturers to re-interpret or re-introduce forms of that period, often veneered with satinwood. The style gathered momentum in the 1870s and remained popular until beyond the turn of the 19th century.

In America, the British design reforms of Talbert and Dresser were expressed in the designs of Frank Furness and executed by Daniel Pabst in Philadelphia. Eastlake furniture, the American version of Art furniture, with its rectilinear forms, panelled construction, turned uprights, and spindled galleries, continued in popularity throughout the 1870s and 1880s. Renaissance decorative elements were also popular in the US, employed by firms such as John Jelliff (1813–90) in Newark, New Jersey. More innovative was the furniture produced by George Hunzinger (1835–98) in Brooklyn, New York, which played on the ingenious massing of complex turned elements. Materials popular in the US included bamboo furniture and imitation bamboo made from bird's-eye maple. The technique of woodcarving, less prevalent in British furniture, was employed in the naturalistic motifs adopted by the woodcarving school that flourished in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Opulent materials and skilled craftsmanship were also characteristic of much American Aesthetic furniture.

Herter Brothers of New York adopted a restrained stylistic vocabulary that drew on European – particularly British and French Empire – sources, often executed in ebonized cherry or gilded maple, with flat panels of intricate, sometimes asymmetrical, floral marquetry. The Anglo-Japanese style popularized by Godwin flourished in the work of A. & H. Lejambre, which manufactured tables with asymmetrical shelves and mahogany tops inlaid with mother-of-pearl and metal inlays. Other fashionable styles such as the Celtic and Moorish revivals inspired the furnishing of the interior of the Seventh Regiment Armory in New York (1879–80) by the Associated Artists formed by Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848–1933).

The Moorish craze of the 1880s and 1890s was popularized in Britain by Liberty & Co., and in the US by Tiffany & Co. After the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition, the counterpart of the English Queen Anne movement was echoed in the US by the Colonial Revival, inspired by its colonial heritage, which encouraged the re-introduction of 18th-century forms.

With "Modernism" on the march, the 1890s in Europe were brimming with political, social, and aesthetic shifts, including a conscious sense of end-of-the-century decadence.

Sources: William Hamilton, Lectures on Metaphysics and Logic, 1859; Dorothy Richardson, "Saintsbury and Art for Art's Sake in England"PMLA 59, No. 1 March 1944, pages 243-260; Raymond Williams, Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society New York: Oxford University Press, 1985, pages 31-33; Regina Lee Blaszyzk's "The Aesthetic Moment: Chain Decorators and Consumer Demand, and Technological Change in the Pottery Industry," Winterthur Portfolio 29, no 2/3, pages 121-153; Noel Riley The Elements of Design: a Pictorical Encyclopedia of the Decorative Arts ... , New York: The Free Press, 2003, pages 254-261.