In the second half of the 19th century the dominant features of the middle class (capitalism, economy, Positivism in Philosophy and Naturalism in Art) were hampered by new theories and ideas, especially from the philosophers Marx and Engels and from the new movement of Aestheticism, based on the disengagement from all the social and moral Victorian issues, tat usually repressed human instincts.
In 1873 Walter Pater published a collection of critical essays titled “The Renaissance Studies in Art and Poetry”, in which he says that art didn’t have any didactic function, but it should be seen as a source of deep and intense moments of sensations. For Pater the only way to combat meaninglessness of existence is to live hedonistically. His philosophy appealed to a group of artists, the aesthetes, who stated that the cult of beauty was the central factor in life and that “Life should copy Art and not the opposite”.
The aesthetic artist detests the values and hypocrisy of the middle classes and he keeps away from the masses and tries to live a life of refined sensations. They argued that Art had no practical purpose and coined the slogan/battle cry “Art for Art’s sake”.
The culmination of Aestheticism in Victorian England was reached with Oscar Wilde.
In Italy the Aestheticism Movement was called Decadentismo.