The Decadent Movement

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the British phase of a movement that spread across Europe in the mid-19th and early 20th centuries. Influenced by Charles Baudelaire and by Walter Pater, these Decadents rejected the mainstream Victorian view that art needed a moral purpose, and valued instead the intense sensations art provoked, celebrating art for art’s sake. Oscar Wilde was at its heart, Aubrey Beardsley adorned it with his illustrations and they, with others, provoked moral panic with their supposed degeneracy. After burning brightly, the movement was soon lost its energy in Britain yet it has proved influential.

The illustration above, by Beardsley, is from the cover of the first edition of The Yellow Book in April 1894

With

Neil Sammells
Professor of English and Irish Literature and Deputy Vice Chancellor at Bath Spa University

Kate Hext
Senior Lecturer in English Literature at the University of Exeter

And

Alex Murray
Senior Lecturer in English at Queen’s University, Belfast

Producer: Simon Tillotson