Aesthetic Peacocks

The idea for a major exhibition about the Aesthetic Movement was first discussed almost five years ago so there is certainly lots to fill you in on. Through this blog I want to give you a sense, not just of our current work as we approach the final stages of exhibition planning and object installation, but also how the exhibition has evolved so far. My first few posts will be about how the objects for the exhibition were initially selected and the work of the designers who have helped to make the exhibition a reality. Working on this project has been an exciting and diverse experience so I hope you enjoy hearing about how The Cult of Beauty has been created.

 The V&A is uniquely placed to stage an exhibition about the Aesthetic movement. Many of the artists lived and worked within Kensington and Chelsea and were inspired by the collections at the South Kensington Museum (as the V&A was then known). The museum was quick to acquire and commission objects from Aesthetic designers. This has resulted in a rich collection of Aesthetic artworks so we had plenty to choose from! Star objects such as E. W. Godwin’s ebonised geometric sideboard, normally on display in the British Galleries, will be shown alongside lesser known works currently in store.

 One of the most exciting moments for me was when we visited our store at Blythe House to see Albert Moore’s cartoons for a peacock frieze. The frieze was designed for the drawing room of a house at 15 Berkeley Square and the interiors, which no longer exist, were by the architect George Aitchison whose work I had previously studied. It was wonderful when we realised that we had precisely the right cartoons to recreate the frieze depicted in Aitchison’s watercolour design of the drawing room. With the help of the V&A’s conservators, we are able to bring these beautiful drawings of peacocks out of the stores and display them together with Aitchison’s design which the Royal Institute of British Architects has kindly agreed to lend.


George Aitchison’s design for the drawing room, 15 Berkeley Square(from the RIBA Library Drawings & Archives Collections) and Albert Moore’s cartoon for the peacock frieze on display at The Cult of Beauty press launch, held at Leighton House.