Late 19th-century European arts movement that centred on the doctrine that art exists for the sake of its beauty alone. It began in reaction to prevailing utilitarian social philosophies and to the perceived ugliness and philistinism of the industrial age. Its philosophical foundations were laid by Immanuel Kant, who proposed that aesthetic standards could be separated from morality, utility, or pleasure. James McNeill Whistler, Oscar Wilde, and Stéphane Mallarmé raised the movement's ideal of the cultivation of refined sensibility to perhaps its highest point. Aestheticism had affinities with French Symbolism and was a precursor of Art Nouveau.
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