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3.0 out of 5 stars It's convenient to have several key texts of Baudelaire's aesthetic criticism collated in one place rather than as scattered translations printed here and there over the last.
3.0 out of 5 stars Much-needed content in ill-suited printing
It's convenient to have several key texts of Baudelaire's aesthetic criticism collated in one place rather than as scattered translations printed here and there over the last 40 years. It is especially nice to have so many attractive monochrome plates of Guys's work -- perhaps more than strictly necessary. It's unfortunate that the remarkably thin pages make it distracting at best and challenging at worst to read what Baudelaire was actually writing.
Before I come off as a ranting, blind curmudgeon, let me say that this is -- I believe -- the first time in 12 years of dedicated Amazon purchasing that I have returned a book. My eyes are not what they were when I began buying books from Amazon, of course, but I read for a living and it's not as though my eyes are accustomed to 16-point type. I teach out of Norton anthologies at least once a year and have no problem with Norton's thin pages and small type, but what's happening in this edition is just too intense for me: the dark type bleeds through the onionskin pages; the margins can be measured in millimeters (no marginal notetaking is possible unless you write with a needle dipped in ink); the trim size is pleasantly small, but the font is so reduced that I have to hold the text about a foot from my eyes in order to read it. This would make the experience uncomfortable enough if Baudelaire were writing casual, easy stuff; if you would like the opportunity to concentrate on what he's writing and, ideally, to take some notes here and there, then the formatting of this edition makes that unnecessarily difficult to do.
5.0 out of 5 stars Have been reading this dreamlike book for years. My recent purchase was as a Christmas present.
Baudelaire orchestrates the debut of an anonymous (but real).
Have been reading this dreamlike book for years. My recent purchase was as a Christmas present.
Baudelaire orchestrates the debut of an anonymous (but real) cartoonist in this series of reviews. So, he introduces the sensibility of the artist, rather than the man. He argues that art is on the street beside you, in the room with you, in the mirror. Then why isn't every person an artist? What thing do people connect to the reporting senses? Why are so many who call themselves artists not artists; what makes some others, who have not chosen to make art, artists? If you want to understand the meaning of words like "dilettante," "artificial," "professional," "curiosity," "inspiration," and the tired vocabulary of the plastic sphere re-invigored at its origin, read this book. Usable handbook. Knowing Baudelaire will reveal further the horrible and ragged side of the aesthetic here espoused.
Enthused essays and aphorisms--insight into a vocation which remains mysterious. Not from ivory tower; Baudelaire a "gentleman" explorer. Look out for volatile friendship with book.
This is a second edition of a fine essay collection. Alas, it's barely readable. The onionskin on which it is printed is so fine that the reverse side bleeds.
1.0 out of 5 stars Terrible second edition of a masterful collection
[[ASIN:0714833657 The Painter of Modern Life and Other Essays (Arts & Letters)]]
This is a second edition of a fine essay collection. Alas, it's barely readable. The onionskin on which it is printed is so fine that the reverse side bleeds through. The print itself begs a magnifying glass (well, no - that's a bit exaggerated - but it's very tiny). The gutter size is so miserly that to fully open the book you practically have to break the binding. Forget any marginalia you wish to write - no room in the outside margins. Phaidon (the publisher) - are you listening? I will NEVER buy another book of yours unless I physically see it first. It's a real shame too because the notes are very scholarly, the picture plates are good too.
My advice is to look for this book in its FIRST edition (around 1967) - I found one at the library in paperback. Generous margins, gutter, and print size.
1.0 out of 5 stars I agree with the the one star review entirely. This edition is as cheaply made as possible and, sadly, extremely difficult to read as a result. I will take that reviewer's.
1.0 out of 5 stars Agreed: Terrible second edition of a masterful collection
I agree with the the one star review entirely. This edition is as cheaply made as possible and, sadly, extremely difficult to read as a result. I will take that reviewer's advice and look for a first edition. I plan on returning my copy of the second edition.
5.0 out of 5 stars In THE PAINTER OF MODERN LIFE, Charles Baudelaire sets out his theories on current aesthetics in essay format, some dozen of them, ranging from considerations of beauty and.
5.0 out of 5 stars Baudelaire's THE PAINTER OF MODERN LIFE Asks What Is Real?
In THE PAINTER OF MODERN LIFE, Charles Baudelaire sets out his theories on current aesthetics in essay format, some dozen of them, ranging from considerations of beauty and fashion to modernity to cosmetics. Baudelaire focuses on one painter in particular, a little-known painter/draftsman, named Constantin Guys. Baudelaire's choice of Guys to be the "Painter" of the title surprised everyone who expected him to choose a more renowned artist like Edouard Manet. Baudelaire chose Guys because he better fit the free spirit of the bohemian hero than Manet. Guys was to Baudelaire the very incarnation of the flaneur, one who could slip unnoticed into a crowded Paris street to capture the essence of an object or model with lively power.
In his first essay, Beauty, Fashion, and Happiness, Baudelaire emphasizes that "minor poets too have something good, solid, and delightful to offer." Baudelaire was dismayed that major poets tended to write poems on general beauty, leaving it to lesser poets to appreciate the particular beauty of "circumstance and the sketch of manners." Beauty of the past was not his concern. Rather, "my concern today is with the painting of manners of the present." Any discussion of the merits of beauty past and beauty present had to be presented in the context of a dual composition, ignoring for the moment that the vision that the observer gets is rooted in singularity. Baudelaire saw this duality of beauty as having "an eternal, invariable character" and a second one of "a relative, circumstantial element." Misguided artists all too often harped on the first while down playing the second. Baudelaire stresses the need for this latter element "as the amusing, enticing, appetizing icing on the divine cake." Art, for Baudelaire, has both a soul (which is eternal and invariable) and a body (which is ephemeral and variable). This duality between the eternal soul and the ephemeral body has the unfortunate tendency for an artist to "lose" or mask the eternal verities of his subject/model due to the prejudices, biases, or misperceptions of the artist's vision. He adds that even the artist's religion may act as a distorting filter. Baudelaire seems ambivalent concerning the veracity of a quote from Stendhal: "Beauty is nothing else but a promise of happiness." On the one hand, Baudelaire notes that this quote "approached the truth more closely than many another" while on the other "this definition overshoots the mark; it makes Beauty far too subject to the infinitely variable ideal of Happiness; it strips Beauty too neatly of its aristocratic quality." When he concludes that the quote "has the great merit of making a decided break with the academic error," he implies that far too many artists and observers erroneously assume that the appreciation of Beauty must forevermore be wedded to the will of the wisp specter of Happiness.
In the third essay, The Artist, Man of the World, Man of the Crowd, and Child, Baudelaire introduces the "painter" of the title as Monsieur C. G. (Constantin Guys), one who is lionized in a series of hyperbolic praises. Baudelaire refers to him as "A passionate lover of crowds and incognitos." Despite acknowledging the enormous output of Guys' drawings, Baudelaire describes him as "not precisely an artist, but rather a man of the world." This "man of the world" he calls a flaneur, one who is burning with passion to merge into a crowd, and driven by irrepressible curiosity, redirect on canvas the external world to be "reborn on his paper, natural and more than natural, beautiful and more than beautiful" the images that but moments before were a swirling mélange of inchoate flux. Baudelaire sees this process of transforming seen images to transcribed images as the hallmark of the artist who can temporarily become a child so that the sheer joy of that child's perception can meld into the mature perspective of the adult to create a series of images that is nothing less than "childhood recovered at will." Baudelaire's favorite adjectives for this childlike/adult artist include the following: passionate, independent, impartial, curious, and incognito. Where Caesar announces veni, vedi, veci, of Guys Baudelaire suggests he looked, he saw, he scribbled.
The fourth essay, Modernity, suggests that Guys "has an aim loftier than that of a mere flaneur, an aim more general, something other than the fugitive pleasure of circumstance." It is here that Baudelaire connects Guys to the process by which one may poke into the margins of the here and now to distil the very essence of the eternal nature of Beauty. This higher order quality Baudelaire terms "modernity." Though Fashion is based on its being intrinsically ephemeral, he believes that this very ephemerality possesses subtle links to the eternal realm of Art and Beauty. Baudelaire provides an example of those who violate this precept in terms of those artists who "dress all their subjects in the garments of the past." He laments the tendency of misguided artists to picture their subjects as wearing historically inaccurate garb irrespective of the clothing that they ought to have worn. He defines "modernity" as "the ephemeral, the fugitive, the contingent, the half of art whose other half is the eternal and the immutable." Truly talented painters have no problems with creating the proper modernity that resonates as pleasure in the eyes of the spectator as the models are "perfectly harmonious, because everything--from costume to coiffure--everything, I say, combines to form a completely viable whole." When this transitory elusiveness of modernity is violated by an untalented artist, the result is that "you cannot fail to tumble into the abyss of an abstract and indeterminate beauty." Baudelaire poses the interesting comment that someday if modernity is sufficiently worthy of becoming a future "antiquity," then that future generation of viewer must be able to "see" the eternal background of Beauty behind the ephemeral foregrounding of fashion. Guys, Baudelaire notes, is precisely the artist who is equipped with the needed talent and temperament to accomplish the tricky task.
In the tenth essay, The Dandy, Baudelaire defends the dandy from the stereotypical charges of being money mad and of having "an immoderate taste for the toilet and material elegance." A true dandy disdains such trifles as "no more than symbols of his aristocratic superiority of mind." A dandy values his toilet only if it is utter simplicity. The primal motivation to a dandy is "the burning need to create for oneself a personal originality, bounded only by the limits of proprieties." A dandy would rather astound others than be astounded. Further, a dandy is a stoic, bearing pain rather than complaining of it. Baudelaire lauds the dandy as one who has the "finest in human pride." Dandies do not appear ubiquitously and equally in all ages. They appear "in periods of transition, when democracy is not yet all-powerful, and aristocracy is only just beginning to totter and fall." Baudelaire suggests that democracy and dandyism are mutually exclusive: "But alas, the riding tide of democracy, which invades and levels everything, is daily overwhelming these last representatives of human pride." Dandies are a vanishing rare flower of "the last spark of heroism." Guys is particularly expert at capturing the ineffable essence of the dandy in his sketches: "Nothing is missed; his lightness of step, his social aplomb, and his simplicity in his air of authority." Baudelaire notes that the overarching trait of these "privileged" beings is their coldness, "which comes from an unshakeable determination not to be moved."
In the eleventh essay, In Praise of Cosmetics, Baudelaire alters focus from men to women. Where he writes of men in terms of their character, women, it seems, are limned as mannequins or idols, whose primary purpose is to dazzle and bewitch men. Women, fashion, and cosmetics form the apexes of the Modernist triangle. Due to its sheer transitory nature, fashion belongs to the ephemeral and fugitive component of immortal art. And what can be more transitory than fashion, which even in Baudelaire's day was both source and object of women's desires? The shopping malls of the twentieth century had their equivalent in the toney arcades of Paris where the flaneur reigned supreme. And in these arcades women learned to become the physical objective correlative of crass commercialism and blatant artificiality. Baudelaire's predilection for the urban over the rural is never more apparent than in his thinly disguised disdain of nature. Where Wordsworth saw nature as the very wellspring of human identity, Baudelaire subordinates nature as a crippler of that identity. Makeup and cosmetics imbue women with a loveliness that nature could never hope to match. It is the cold reason of the mind rather than the supposed healing powers of nature that allows women, through the judicious application of makeup, to display their charms with frankness and honesty.
In THE PAINTER OF MODERN LIFE, Charles Baudelaire, through his insistence that the "reality" of nature is not "real" at all, anticipates a later generation of Post-Structuralists who would insist on much the same. His book then is a timely reminder that our world of blatant commercialization did not begin in a Hollywood studio.