The Preservation Society of Newport County presents Bohemian Beauty: The Aesthetic Movement and Oscar Wilde’s Newport, March 24 – November 4, 2018. The exhibition, on view in the second floor galleries at Rosecliff (1902), celebrates the ideas embodied by the artists, poets and thinkers popular during the Aesthetic Movement (1870-1890), an important era of artistic experimentation here and abroad.

The Aesthetic Movement championed pure beauty and “art for art’s sake,” emphasizing the sensual and visual qualities of art and design over moral or even practical considerations. Aestheticism manifested itself in ordinary household items; one of its tenets was that it be part of everyday life and not limited to painting, sculpture and architecture. Its influence can be seen in ceramics, metalwork, furniture, glass, jewelry and interiors of the period.

Oscar Wilde

Bohemian Beauty will feature more than 80 examples of such objects drawn from the Preservation Society’s collection as well as significant loans from eight other prominent museums and private collections: The Art Institute of Chicago, The Richard H. Driehaus Museum, The Collection of Richard H. Driehaus, Chicago, The Ohio State University Historic Costume and Textiles Collection, The Newport Historical Society, The Providence Athenaeum, University of Rhode Island Historic Textile and Costume Collection, and The Collection of Dr. Philip Maddock.

Irish poet Oscar Wilde was a leading proponent of the Aesthetic Movement in Britain and traveled to North America in 1882 to share his message. His tour included 140 lectures in 260 days and stretched from New York to San Francisco.  Here in Newport, at the invitation of Julia Ward Howe, he lectured on “The Decorative Arts” at the Casino Theater on July 15, 1882, an event attended by Newport’s most “prominent cottagers.”

Wilde’s tour raised awareness and interest in interior decoration.  The style was influential in the Gilded Age, as it merged interests in traditional crafts – a precursor of the Arts & Crafts Movement – with the influence of industrial design and new technologies in manufacturing.

Admission to the exhibition is included with regular Rosecliff tour admission.  For more information and to purchase tickets, visit