Fin de siècle By Martens, David
Referring to the end of the 19th century, Fin de siècle not only represents a specific historical moment but also a part of the sensibility and of the cultural production of the period. It is particularly challenging to define fin de siècle within the artistic world, as it neither corresponds to a movement around a leading figure, nor to an amalgamation of shared and promulgated aesthetic principles (there is no manifesto laying claim to fin-de-sièclism).
The term appears for the first time at the end of the 1880s. In its French form, it has imposed itself ever since on most Western-European languages (e.g., English, German). Fin de siècle crystalizes certain anxieties that are typical of this era: the period is characterized by a particular striving for modernity, while at the same time it is also perceived as an end. This explains why the fin de siècle mentality has often been closely related to decadence (or decadentism) to which it is, however, not limited: symbolism, aestheticism or even art nouveau all fall within fin de siècle.
The fin de siècle mind-set is marked by an ensemble of shared features, in particular an ambivalent fear for the end.