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Chapter 13 - Decadence in Painting

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 September 2020

Alex Murray
Affiliation:
Queen's University Belfast
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Summary

It is difficult to identify Decadent art in the same manner one can identify Decadent poetry or a Decadent novel. This chapter argues that late nineteenth-century neoclassical British, French Symbolist and Decadent painting were neglected by art historians of the first half of the twentieth century, disparaged for their lack of formal innovation, with their Decadent subject matter – in particular its investment in violence and eroticism – largely neglected. Painters such as Lawrence Alma-Tadema and Frederic Leighton were acceptable to a late Victorian art public because their depictions of violent death and sexual dissidence were anchored in the classical past and myth. The nude, when linked to religion, still had the capacity to outrage Victorians, as did artists like Félicien Rops, whose darker, less idealized depiction of sensuality marked them as Decadent. These anxieties came together in responses to depictions of Salome, the ultimate Decadent femme fatale.

Type
Chapter
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Decadence
A Literary History
, pp. 234 - 253
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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