'art comes to you professing frankly to give nothing but the highest quality to your moments as they pass, and simply for those moments' sake' In Studies in the History of the Renaissance (1873), a diffident Oxford don produced an audacious and incalculably influential defence of aestheticism. Through his highly idiosyncratic readings of some of the finest paintings, sculptures, and poems of the French and Italian Renaissance, Pater redefined the practice of criticism as an impressionistic, almost erotic exploration of the critic's aesthetic responses. At the same time, reclaiming the Hellenism that he saw as the most characteristic aspect of the Renaissance, he implicitly celebrated homoerotic friendship. Pater's infamous 'Conclusion', which forever linked him with the decadent movement, scandalized many with its insistence on making pleasure the sole motive of life, even as it charmed fellow aesthetes such as Oscar Wilde. This edition of Studies reproduces the text of the first edition, recapturing its initial impact, and the Introduction celebrates its doomed attempt to stand out against the processes of industrialization.
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