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Charles Baudelaire

(1821—1867) French poet and critic

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(b Paris, 9 Apr. 1821; d Paris, 31 Aug. 1867).

French poet and critic. As well as being a major poet, Baudelaire was one of the liveliest art critics of his day, passionate and partisan in his views. He thought that there are no universal aesthetic standards, but a different type of beauty for different peoples and cultures. Moreover, the individuality of the artist is essential to the creation of beauty and if it is suppressed or regimented, art becomes banal: ‘the beautiful is always bizarre’, he wrote in 1855. His favourite contemporary artist was Delacroix, whom he extolled for his imagination, intelligence, and technical skills. However, he singled out the relatively minor artist Constantin Guys as the representative par excellence of contemporary society, and wrote a long appreciation of his work entitled ‘Le Peintre de la vie moderne’, published as a series of articles in Le Figaro in 1863. The other artists with whom Baudelaire was involved include Courbet (he is one of the people depicted in The Painter's Studio (1854–5, Mus. d'Orsay, Paris), Manet (he likewise appears in Music in the Tuileries Gardens (1863, NG, London), and Rops, whose career he helped to launch. His writings later had great influence on the Symbolists.

Subjects: Literature

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