The Metropolitan Museum has assembled the first comprehensive exhibition ever organized on the subject of the Aesthetic movement. This broadly based decorative arts movement began originally in England in the 1860s, spread rapidly to the United States, and was profoundly influential on American culture from roughly 1875 until well into the 20th century.
Although its primary concern was the introduction of principles of art into the manufacture of everything from furniture and textiles to metalwork and books, it also had a major impact on other aspects of domestic life.
It gave rise to many of the nation's great museums, art schools, societies for the decorative arts, and books and magazines on interior design, and was instrumental in promoting the active participation of women in art and art education.
The exhibition covers the movement's British precedents and its major stylistic influences (primarily the arts of medieval England, ancient Greece, and Japan), examines its preoccupation with ornament and detail, and illuminates its belief that even the most mundane objects should be subject to the highest aesthetic standards and ideals.
Included are outstanding examples of fine and decorative art produced during the period, from William Merritt Chase's exotic ``Portrait of Miss Dora Wheeler'' to a remarkable chocolate pot made by Tiffany & Co. in 1879.
The exhibition remains at the Metropolitan Museum through Jan. 11.