It died soon because of the World War I during which cultivation of beauty became difficult, the life of the followers of this cult was far from being pure, and their cult of beauty was unconcerned with the practical affairs of life. This Aesthetic Movement was of a foreign origin; it originated in France in the Eighteen thirties. The most important of the English aesthetes are Whistler, Oscar Wilde, Walter Pater and Virginia Woolf. According to these aesthetes, the function of art is to provide exclusively pleasant sensation and the critic should enjoy the sensations. Oscar Wilde boldly declared: art is neither moral nor immoral but a moral.
Pater is closely associated with a literary and artistic movement in England known as the Aesthetic movement. The followers of this movement believed in the doctrine of’ Art for Art’s sake’; they regarded the worship of beauty as the highest goal of life. Art was divorced from morality. The purpose of art was to impart aesthetic pleasure by the Cultivation of Beauty. This movement developed fast during the nineties of the nineteenth century and early years of the twentieth. It had a short life.
These aesthetes gave much preference to form and style; they did not bother much about the spirit of a work of art. They laid more and more emphasis on style. In the Preface to the Renaissance Pater explained the function of the aesthetic critic in the following manner:—
I “And the function of the aesthetic critic is to distinguish, to analyse, and separate from its adjuncts, the virtue by which a picture, a landscape, a fair personality in life or in a book, produces this special impression of beauty or pleasure, to indicate what the source of the impression is, and under what conditions it is experienced. His end is reached when he has
disengaged that virtue Often it will require great nicety to disengage this virtue from the commoner elements with which it may be found in combination.”
Hence an aesthetic critic should experience beauty of a work of art, and separate it from other elements which are not beautiful, and also record his own enjoyment of it for the benefit of others.
What distinguishes him most from the other aesthetes, is a distinction between good art and great art made in his essay, “Style”. Art to him is the experience itself. It can occur only to a mind that has freed itself from all pre-conceived notions, theories, and dogmas, and is therefore open to impressions of all kinds. From these, by its special aptitude for the best, it picks up the best—those, again, that move it to ecstasy.
Pater’s literary criticism is extremely small in bulk. It is contained in Appreciations and in part of Studies in the History of the Renaissance,
Marius the Epicurean, Plato and Platonism, and Essays from “The tuardian’. He divides literature between imaginative literature and i imaginative literature.