Cult of Beauty

Marion Hume | April 7th, 2011

Photos by Peter Hunt

The current it-girl in London? Esther. That’s the name of the marvelous painting by John Everett Millais (1829-96) which is attracting fashionable attention as the star piece in the V&A Museum’s outstanding Cult of Beauty exhibition.

You will note the word “outstanding.” We do not usually gush. We do now. The V&A has earned a reputation for a series of great exhibitions in the past few years. This one; subtle and beautiful and featuring some of the loveliest paintings, sculptures and decorative works of the late 19th century, is the best yet, artfully curated by Stephen Calloway, who sports facial hair suitable for a 19th century aesthete.

There’s also a V&A app to accompany the exhibition, which leads you out of the V&A through a walking tour of riverside Chelsea that explores the lives of the artists who worked there back when artists could afford to live in Chelsea.

Voiced by Rupert Everett, the highlights include tales from behind the closed doors of 101 Cheyne Walk where Whistler lived with his Irish mistress. It also tells you about Ellen Terry, the great English stage actress who married at 17 and was one of the first western women to waft around in a kimono and of poor Lizzie Siddal, the world’s first supermodel, who married Dante Gabriel Rossetti, became addicted to laudanum and died.

Not in London before July? The exhibition will tour to Paris, then San Francisco.

Cult Of Beauty: The Aesthetic Movement 1860-1900 2 April - 17 July 2011 V&A London, then Musee D’Orsay, Paris (Sept 2011), then the de Young Museum, San Francisco (February 2012).

Europe, London, Slideshows, Stuff we Love, United Kingdom

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