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A Bar at the Folies-Bergère

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Baudelaire and the painters of modern life

The greatest French poet of the nineteenth century, Charles Baudelaire, was also an immensely important art critic. He wrote at length about Delacroix. He wrote 'The Painter of Modern Life' about his friend Constantin Guys, but, in the narrative of the history of idea, it was Manet, whom the poet befriended in 1858, who best fulfilled the role. Baudelaire died in 1867.

Alan Bowness writes: "It was Baudelaire's friendship that gave Manet the encouragement to plunge into the unknown to find the new, and in doing so to become the true painter of modern life. The Music in the Tuileries is a new kind of painting... Baudelaire appears at the extreme left, fashionably dressed, talking to Gautier. In the final paragraph of his 1845 'Salon' Baudelaire had stated that the true painter for whom we are waiting would be the one who could find an epic quality in contemporary life and make us understand 'combien nous sommes grands et poetique dans nos cravates et nos bottes verries'. This is exactly what Manet has achieved."

Alan Bowness, Poetry & Painting: Baudelaire, Mallarmé, Appolinaire and their Painter Friends, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1994

Manet & Monet
Mallarmé on Manet
Career

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Baudelaire de profil, en chapeau I

Manet (Courtauld Institute of Art)

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Baudelaire's Mistress Reclining, 1862

Manet (Szépmüvészeti Museum, Budapest)

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Music in the Tuileries, 1862

Manet (National Gallery, London)

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Deus grisettes et deux soldats, c.1860

Constantin Guys (Courtauld Institute of Art)

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