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The Cult of Beauty: The Victorian Avant-Garde 1860–1900 is the first major exhibition to explore the unconventional creativity of the British Aesthetic Movement, tracing the evolution of this movement from a small circle of progressive artists and poets, through the achievements of innovative painters and architects, to its broad impact on fashion and the middle-class home. The superb artworks on view encompass the manifold forms of Victorian material culture: the traditional high art of painting, fashionable trends in architecture and interior decoration, handmade and manufactured furnishings for the “artistic” home, art photography, and the new modes of dress.

The Cult of Beauty showcases the entirety of the Aesthetic Movement’s output, celebrating the startling beauty and variety of creations by masters as diverse as artists Dante Gabriel Rossetti, James McNeill Whistler, and Edward Burne-Jones and designers E.W. Godwin, William Morris, and Christopher Dresser. The Legion of Honor is the only U.S. venue on the world tour, which includes the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.


Admission prices: adults $20, seniors 65+ $17, students with current ID $16, youths 6–17 $10, members and children 5 and under free.

Groups of 10 or more have access to priority booking and discounted rates. For additional information please contact the group sales office at or by calling 415.750.3620.

Exhibition Highlights

Frederic Leighton, Pavonia, 1858–1859. Private collection
Edward William Godwin, Sideboard, 1865–1875. Victoria and Albert Museum
Cover of Salome by Oscar Wilde, 1920. FAMSF
Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Armchair, 1884–1886. Victoria and Albert Museum
Christopher Dresser, Teapot, ca. 1879. Victoria and Albert Museum
William Eden Nesfield, Screen, 1867. Victoria and Albert Museum
James McNeill Whistler, Harmony in Grey and Green: Miss Cicely Alexander, 1872–4
Edward Burne-Jones, Laus Veneris, 1873–8

Audio files


Exhibition organized by the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco in collaboration with the Musée d’Orsay, Paris.

Grand Patron

Diane B. Wilsey

Lead Patrons

Athena and Timothy Blackburn


Lucy and William Hamilton
Maria and John Pitcairn
Arlene Schnitzer
The Frances K. and Charles D. Field Foundation


Rosemary Baker
Marie Mendenhall Cleasby
Leslie and Troy Daniels in memory of Diana V. Hind
Charles and Ann Johnson
Ross Auxiliary of the Fine Arts Museums

HansonBridgett The Fairmont San Francisco