Monday, January 10, 2022

Oscar Wilde, Aestheticism, Whiskey & Peacocks

Just published is this essay on the 19th century Aesthetic Movement, and its chief proponents, the Irish playwright Oscar Wilde, and the American expatriate painter James A.M. Whistler. As "aesthetes," the two were satirized in an 1881 comic-opera by Gilbert and Sullivan, titled Patience. It became so popular in Europe that plans were made to tour it in the US and Canada. Wilde was commissioned to travel ahead to those locations to educate the audiences on the nature of aesthetics. He arrived in the US in January 1882, and departed in November, having lectured 141 times. This is an account of his tour, as well as the US acquisition of a masterpiece of the Aesthetic Movement, Whistler's co-called Peacock Room.