The Mirror of Art, Critical Studies

The Mirror of Art, Critical Studies

The Mirror of Art, Critical Studies

The Mirror of Art, Critical Studies

Excerpt

It is probably true to say that the name Baudelaire has more suggestive power for the average English reader than that of any other French poet. Ever since Swinburne 'discovered' him to us in the 1860s, and the egregious Robert Buchanan anathematized him some ten years later as the accursed begetter of the 'Fleshly School of Poetry', he has had his more or less violent partisans and enemies. But in this country at least it is only during the last generation or so that he has achieved his unquestioned status as one of the great archetypal figures--if not the greatest--in the moral and literary history of the nineteenth century. A considerable literature has grown up around him in English, ranging from biographical and interpretative studies to a whole shelf of translation of his poems and a volume or two of extracts from his prose-writings. It is therefore only the more remarkable that his works of criticism--and particularly his art-criticism, which is generally held to be his finest achievement in that field--should have remained largely unavailable to English readers. With the exception of Miss Margaret Gilman's excellent Baudelaire the Critic, no book in English, so far as I know, has been exclusively devoted to this subject; and I think that it would be fair to add that few professional art- writers, even, have given much evidence of having studied and profited by the works of one who has been called 'the father of modern art-criticism' and 'le premier esthéticien de son âge'.

The present selection, therefore, should need no apology. It includes all three of Baudelaire Salons, the articles on the Exposition Universelle of 1855, the essay on Laughter, with its accompanying articles on French and Foreign Caricaturists, and finally the great obituary panegyric on Delacroix. The well- known essay on Constantin Guys--Le Peintre de la vie moderne-- has been regretfully omitted for reasons of space, and on the grounds that it alone of Baudelaire's art-critical studies has been translated, not once only, but twice during the last twenty-five . . .

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