art for art's sake

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A phrase associated with the aesthetic doctrine that art is self‐sufficient and need serve no moral or political purpose. The phrase l'art pour l'art became current in France in the first half of the 19th cent., and Gautier's formulation in his preface to Mademoiselle de Maupin (1835), which denied that art could or should be in any way useful, was admired by Pater, one of the leading influences on the English ‘Aesthetic’ movement of the 1880s. (See Wilde, Dowson, Johnson, L. P., Symons, A. W.) Pater in his conclusion to The Renaissance (1873) spoke of ‘the desire of beauty, the love of art for art's sake’.

Subjects: Literature.

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