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Baudelaire, Intellectual Talisman Along the Way to Impressionism

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During tumultuous times there is often an individual, an intellectual talisman if you like, who watches events unfold and extracts the essence of what is happening into a text, which then provides a handbook for the oppressed. For the frustrated Paris-based artists battling with the Academy during the second half of the nineteenth century, Baudelaire was that individual, his essay, The Painter of Modern Life, the text.

… He claimed that ‘for the sketch of manners, the depiction of bourgeois life … [sic] there is a rapidity of movement which calls for an equal speed of execution from the artist’. …

… Baudelaire passionately believed that it was incumbent upon living artists to document their time, recognizing the unique position that a talented painter or sculptor finds him or herself in: ‘Few men are gifted with the capacity of seeing; there are fewer still who possess the power of expression …’ … He challenged artists to find in modern life ‘the eternal from the the transitory’. That, he thought, was the essential purpose of art – to capture the universal in the everyday, which was particular to their here and now: the present.

And the way to do that was by immersing oneself in the day-to-day of metropolitan living: watching, thinking, feeling and finally recording.

Will Gompertz, What Are You Looking At?, pp.28-29

Written by Tony Hirst

February 6, 2014 at 10:31 am

Posted in Anything you want

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