Art class on the Decadence period explores life in decay


Imagining that your world could end tomorrow is a heavy burden. Brad Loudenback has created an eight-week course to examine this thought process, made popular during a period in art history when artists, mostly European, felt that their world was in decay due to a creative depression.

Loudenback’s class is based on his graduate school thesis. His students will examine works from the artists of this period, which is known as the Decadence movement.

The Decadence movement was built on a belief that everything was ending. They believed there was nothing exciting to maintain happiness. This led to depression, which made the artist believe it was the end of the world.

“We will be examining a group of very colorful writers and artists,” Loudenback said. “Apart from that, there is always the question of how we respond in our own time to end of the world scenarios.”

Artists at this time began creating art solely for aesthetic purpose. They used art as an escape. Loudenback hopes to examine what it means to embrace the thought that one’s world is in decay. But Loudenback said this is a question that students need to examine for themselves.

“This is a good question,” Loudenback said. “But I’d rather leave it as a question so students can ponder their own responses. Perhaps by the end of the class students will have a pretty good idea what this means to me.”

Lauren Deeds, a junior art major, does not feel that the end is near. But, she does feel learning about a different thought process is intriguing.

“I’m a naturally curious person,” Deeds said. “While I don’t personally believe that my world is in decay or everything around me is ending, I’m interested in finding out what led these people to thinking this way.”

Artists of the Decadence movement didn’t care about the world around them because their lives were meaningless. But Deeds said the way they contradict this belief fascinates her.

“Even though they didn’t care about the world around them, I love how it seems that they still put a lot of love and care into what they created,” Deeds said.

Decadence is not a class that is consistently offered. Peter Sargent, Dean of Fine Arts, said that it is under the ‘Topics In:’ category. Sargent said these courses are offered not only due to the interest of the teacher to teach it, but of the students as well. Deeds feels that students have an interest in the course.

“This is not a subject that is taught very often,” Deeds said. “I think others are interested to see what Decadence really is and to see whether it really is as negative as history makes it out to be. It will be interesting to see how this course feeds our curiosity.”

Share this post

+ posts