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The Painter of Modern Life

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  1,156 ratings  ·  46 reviews
Poet, aesthete and hedonist, Baudelaire was also one of the most groundbreaking art critics of his time. Here he explores beauty, fashion, dandyism, the purpose of art and the role of the artist, and describes the painter who, for him, expresses most fully the drama of modern life.

GREAT IDEAS. Throughout history, some books have changed the world. They have tra
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Paperback, 112 pages
Published August 26th 2010 by Penguin Classics (first published 1863)
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Michael
Sep 21, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed reading this- Baudelaire's poetic fondness for the life of the dandy finds a new home in art criticism. Baudelaire implores his peers to understand the strange and pure spirit behind great art. He also esteems the life of the dandy in its own right rather than as a consolation prize for non-aristocratic birth. Baudelaire is anything but a modern humanist and his beliefs would be unacceptable today. He relentlessly reviles the liberal politics of the French revolution and prefers to kee ...more
Blair
Aug 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you want to know art's role in modernity, read this collection. Baudelaire is indispensable. One of the most instructive comments for me about the sensibility of an artist came from here, about how it is like "childhood recovered at will." That will live with me to the grave.
Matt
May 20, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: worldly-lit, lit-crit

On the flaneur:


"The crowd is his element, as the air is that of birds and water of fishes. His passion and his profession are to become one flesh with the crowd. For the perfect flâneur, for the passionate spectator, it is an immense joy to set up house in the heart of the multitude, amid the ebb and flow of movement, in the midst of the fugitive and the infinite. To be away from home and yet to feel oneself everywhere at home; to see the world, to be at the centre of the world, and yet
...more
Henry
Feb 05, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: criticism-full
It wasn't the MOST critical of texts, but really interesting to read. It was great to focus on the different techniques artists have used: i.e. often nostalgic for times/costumes past, whereas Monsieur G. does not - and focuses on the present moment, the current costumes and all that. It was also a wonderful, clear translation.
Amaani
Read for my analysis on Impressionism. More specifically the artist as flaneur
Castles
Oct 09, 2019 rated it liked it
I’m not sure if it’s the translation or the endless sentences of Baudelaire, but this book wasn’t that interesting.

The times of Baudelaire were somewhat snobbish when it comes to art criticism but I still enjoyed some of his insights.
I did enjoy though the beautiful part about Delacroix.
W.B.
Jul 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I suppose contemporary art criticism owes a great deal to Baudelaire. Reading these essays, one marvels at the astuteness and minuteness of the essayist's observations, his ability to see through various artistic "poses," and his rather scary ability to correctly gauge genius, if we are to consider the "time test" the vital measure of that quality. By "time test," I mean simply that Baudelaire wrote about many artists whose works are still considered vital today. He did this when not many people ...more
Karen
Jan 28, 2016 rated it liked it
I struggled to decide whether this should be 3 or 4 stars, but given that I didn't enjoy reading a vast chunk I've knocked it down to 3. It was an interesting style of writing, and what drew me in particular to this book (aside from Baudelaire being recommended to me on several occasions at uni), was that it was part of a series 'dedicated to those writings that changed the way people thought about the world' or something... To be honest, I probably could do with re-reading the beginning, or rea ...more
Roisin
Jul 18, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you love Baudelaire's poetry, you'll this book. A fascinating compilation of different artistic and philosophic essays, looking at the artist in modern society, the works of Eugéne Delacroix, the works of Richard Wagner, and caricaturists, among others.

With pictures to illustrate and some notes, Baudelaire like his poetry writes with passion and drive, which can be seen in particular in 'Richard Wagner and Tannhäuser In Paris' and the two essays on Poe. He gives insights into thin
...more
Alan
Oct 07, 2016 rated it liked it
I found this book very hard to read as I had almost no knowledge of any of the artists Baudelaire spends the majority of his time talking about. That being said, this was clearly more of a learning experience than an enjoyable read for me. Baudelaire's language is unique and vivid, and his interpersonal relationships with artists (such as Delacroix) are quite interesting. I definitely know I can get more out of this book, and perhaps when I learn more about art history (and particularly modern a ...more
Eva
Dec 09, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
it really helps to understand Baudelaire's idea of modernity and the epilogue is very useful. It's sometimes hard to follow as Baudelaire refers to lots of Constantin Guys'works and I don't have all of them in mind. I think I should read it again to really understand and appreciate it
Alejandra
Jan 25, 2012 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Picked up this beautiful 1970 edition at an old book shop in LA, I am so enjoying the editor's intro.
Chris
Jun 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
his theory is often overlooked or under appreciated, but in many ways rivals his poetry.
Yuuki Nakashima
Feb 25, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction, art
Hmm... The topic is so intriguing but I couldn't read it smoothly. Probably, the author's writing style is not my type.
Quiver
May 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: a-english
Classic, to be read, thought about and thought out. Retain ideas at your own peril and for your own pleasure.
Jim
This was my second reading of these essays and I enjoyed even more the second time through.
Jessica
I prefer Baudelaire's poetry, personally.
Tosh
Nov 23, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Baudelaire was an art critic - and a good one! Why are poets good art critics? The same goes for Frank O'Hara.
Karin
Baudelaire's essay is amazing. He is so modern for his time, and he is often referred to as an 'early modernist', and I agree. I would even credit him with setting the foundation of what would later become modern art and impressionism; that idea of going out to the world, to the crowd and getting the feel of it, of capturing not the exact image, but the essence of it. Because at the time this was written the artist was starting to be forced to compete with photography, and if art is no longer fo ...more
Emily
This essay is the first thing I've read by Baudelaire that's not poetry, and I did enjoy his prose style and the techniques he uses here. It was certainly interesting to hear his thoughts on topics that don't arise in his poetry, and overall quite a neat, clever little endorsement of M. Guys.

I think it also gave some insight into Baudelaire's particular brand of misogyny. Whilst his poetry can be at times rather bluntly, obviously sexist - consider "Taisez-vous, ignorante!" ["Be quie
...more
Bahattin B.
Jul 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
"The crowd is his element, as the air is that of birds and water of fishes. His passion and his profession are to become one flesh with the crowd. For the perfect flâneur, for the passionate spectator, it is an immense joy to set up house in the heart of the multitude, amid the ebb and flow of movement, in the midst of the fugitive and the infinite. To be away from home and yet to feel oneself everywhere at home; to see the world, to be at the centre of the world, and yet to remain hidden from t ...more
Kevin Fitzpatrick
A short but still consequential book, "The Painter of Modern Life and Other Essays" by poet Charles Baudelaire covers subjects as diverse as the role cosmetics should play in the life of women, the works and genius of Eugene Delacroix, the literary art of American Edgar Allan Poe, and the pitfalls of that most debased of art forms, "Philosophic Art." Filled with details unique to the time period, Baudelaire's work is engaging and serves as an impetus for the reader to think deeply and seriously ...more
Adam Gill
Jan 16, 2018 rated it liked it
“But genius is no more than childhood recaptured At will, childhood equipped now with man’s physical means to express itself, and with the analytical mind that enables it to bring order to the sum of experience, involuntarily amassed”

In amongst these essays are some real nuggets of insight, Baudelaire’s caustic wit and unapologetic appraisals of contemporary artists are reminiscent of Wilde but often with a lot more substance. His style can be flowery and a little obscure in the pass
...more
Artem Marchuk
Apr 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It is still modern!

These essays were written even before modern art is considered to emerge. It was so amusing to read these essays of mid 19th century, of pre-modern-art age! Many of Baudelaire’s observations on artists role and meaning of art in society are still relevant today, more than 150 years after, and after most turbulent period in the history of art.
If you’re interested in the history of art, this book is a must-read.
Christopher Byram
I discovered "The Painter of Modern Life" when it was referenced from a note in The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. The note explains that this book expresses Dandyism and the importance of the 1890s figure of the Dandy.
Philip Lulek
Sep 05, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
God i didnt know it was possible for a book to give me cancer and aids at the same time. Total bullshit.
Ana
The Painter of Modern Life
The Life and Work of Eugène Delacroix
From The Salon of 1859
1. The Modern Artist
2. The Modern Public and Photograph
Anna McClelland-Enger
I want to give “The Painter of Modern Life” an angry review but I reluctantly admit that it satisfied something deep in me. Baudelaire has a beautiful way with words and provides an incredibly insightful lens for looking at the world and how the human social order operates. It is extremely pretentious, obviously. But I’m struggling with the heartaches of young adulthood, and my way of dealing with it is by turning love, art, loneliness, and identity into academic subjects. It’s helpful for me to ...more
Debbie
Aug 24, 2014 rated it it was ok
i found some interesting ideas in this book, but the writing wasn't compelling. It was kind of like digging through a bowl of nuts and finding the occasional delicious cashew.
Francisca
Jan 05, 2019 added it
Shelves: theory
baudelaire's poetry intimidates me in a way not most poets do but i was pleasantly surprised to see this short essay collection to be easy to follow and clear on its arguments. definitely a recommendable introduction to basics aesthetics, particularly the first titular essay.

content read:

1. "the painter of modern life"
3. " from the salon of 1859"
3.1. "the modern artist"
3.2. "the modern public and photography"

i skipped the second essay, "the life and w"
...more

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Charles Pierre Baudelaire was a 19th century French poet, translator, and literary and art critic whose reputation rests primarily on Les Fleurs du Mal; (1857; The Flowers of Evil) which was perhaps the most important and influential poetry collection published in Europe in the 19th century. Similarly, his Petits poèmes en prose (1868; "Little Prose Poems") was the most successful and innovative early ...more
“Genius is nothing more nor less than childhood recaptured at will.” 1482 likes
“Genius is no more than childhood recaptured at will, childhood equipped now with man's physical means to express itself, and with the analytical mind that enables it to bring order into the sum of experience, involuntarily amassed.” 167 likes
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