Sexual Anarchy in the Fin de Siècle, 2
Icons of Masculinity
The modern man dresses in black, leaving to the woman the artifice of beautiful clothes. The degree to which a civilisation has evolved is measured, say the scientists, by the ability of the sexes to distinguish themselves. In this context, how can we explain the craze for an androgynous aesthetic?
Homosexuality was feared; it was said to be a form of psychic degeneration that governments were quick to equate with criminal behaviour.
Yet this was an era that celebrated male sexual ambiguity as much as it condemned it; fin-de-siècle painting lent itself to the game of hypocritical confusion.
We will look at some of the great androgynous figures of the period, including the paintings of Simeon Solomon and the illustrations for the libretto of Oscar Wilde's Salome by the brilliant Aubrey Beardsley.