Journal Article

‘Doing As We Like’: Grant Allen, Harry Quilter and Aesthetic Dogma

Anne Anderson

in Journal of Design History

Published on behalf of Design History Society

Volume 18, issue 4, pages 335-355
Published in print January 2005 | ISSN: 0952-4649
Published online January 2005 | e-ISSN: 1741-7279 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jdh/epi052
‘Doing As We Like’: Grant Allen, Harry Quilter and Aesthetic Dogma

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Exploiting the public's rapacious desire for guidance in matters of ‘taste’, Grant Allan published ‘The Philosophy of Drawing Rooms’ in the Cornhill Magazine in 1880. Although appearing an innocuous guide to home improving, Harry Quilter, from the pages of the Spectator, led a counter attack on the dangers inherent, for both sexes, on cultivating the House Beautiful, the mainstay of Aestheticism. The Aesthetic movement was predicated on the notion that interior decorating was to be used, as in the case of personal dress, as a form of individual expression, and was even a means to ‘self-completion’. However, by the 1870s the fad for Japanese fans, Blue and White china, sunflowers and ‘Ye Olde English’ style had created a dogma, a fashion to be slavishly followed by society and led by a select coterie of acolytes. Quilter saw this as not only a false pretence but also as presenting a wider danger to society, rendering men ‘effeminate’ and women hysterical as they ‘self-immolated’ themselves ‘upon the altar of their own hearth’ in their desire to follow the prescribed code. The debacle between Allen and Quilter would lead the latter to pen his famous polemic ‘The New Renaissance or Gospel of Intensity’, one of the best known diatribes against the cult. According to Quilter, it was ‘better that England were full to the brim with ugliness … than that it should be an upholsterers' paradise of blue china and black and gold étagère’.

Keywords: aesthetic movement; consumption; domestic advice manuals; gender politics; home decoration; taste

Journal Article.  12492 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Art ; Art Forms ; Industrial and Commercial Art ; Art Styles

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