Decadence generally refers to an extreme manifestation of symbolism which appeared towards the end of the nineteenth century and emphasised the spiritual, the morbid and the erotic

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The term came into use in the 1880s with, for example, the French journal Le Décadent published in 1886. Decadents were inspired partly by a disgust at the corruption and rampant materialism of the modern world and partly by a related desire to escape it into realms of the aesthetic, fantastic, erotic or religious.

In art it can be seen as a key influence on the work of Dante Gabriel Rossetti and then Edward Coley Burne-Jones in Britain and also Aubrey Beardsley and Simeon Solomon. Other artists working within the decadent mode were Khnopff, Moreau and Rops. Key books include Huysmans’ A Rebours (Against Nature) and Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray.