In the 19th century, the Aesthetic movement exalted taste, the pursuit of beauty, and self-expression over moral expectations and restrictive conformity. Melody Barnett Deusner’s Aesthetic Painting in Britain and America (Yale UP, 2020) examines the production and circulation of artworks made during this unique historical moment. Looking at how specific works of art in this style were created, collected, and exchanged, the book pushes beyond the notion of Aesthetic painting and design as being merely decorative. Work by James McNeill Whistler, Edward Burne-Jones, Albert Moore, and others, Deusner argues, offered their makers and viewers a means of further engaging with the rapidly changing world around them.
Melody Barnett Deusner is an Associate Professor of Art History at IU Bloomington. Her research focuses American art and mass culture to 1945, nineteenth- and early twentieth-century European art, museum history and institutional critique, and historical intersections of visual art and networked technologies. In addition to her latest book, her published works include book chapters and journal articles on topics ranging from Henry Gurdon Marquand’s New York mansion to zones of artistic engagement in late nineteenth-century America.