All That Glitters: Connecting Baudelaire's Art Criticism and Poetry

By Pappas, Sara | French Forum, Fall 2008 | Go to article overview

All That Glitters: Connecting Baudelaire's Art Criticism and Poetry


Pappas, Sara, French Forum


In the many decades since Charles Baudelaire's death, critics have been seeking to understand the relationship between Baudelaire's extensive art critical writings and his poetic project. One of the recurrent themes in studies of Baudelaire's art criticism is the at times problematic relationship between his aesthetic theories and the art he was actually judging. The art critical writings contain many contradictions and paradoxes especially when read against the context of the Salons of the 1840s and 1850s. Baudelaire's emphasis on images that are completely new, on the primacy of imagination over any kind of "imitation," and his critique of overt references in painting to past art or even to literary texts does not easily correspond to the artists he most admired. (1) I have examined elsewhere how Baudelaire's art critical texts maneuver to hide and cloak these paradoxes. I argue that his art criticism restores the images that appeal to him and makes the art of the period new by hiding or displacing what was old. (2) In other words, Baudelaire does not simply privilege the new in his art critical writings; he creates a kind of absolute originality through his writings that is not actually present in the art of the period in the way that he theorizes. This argument has led me to wonder if the cloaking and manipulation of the image have some kind of corollary in the poetry. If Baudelaire's aesthetic theories are not logical or consistent, (3) if the art criticism does not contain some kind of ideal theory of the relationship between the literary and plastic arts that is then put into practice in Les Fleurs du Mal, then what is the relationship between the art critical writings and the poems? What I will propose is that one exemplary relationship is a vocabulary interface involving vision and light between Baudelaire's poetry and art criticism that not only connects the aesthetic writings to the poems but also relates to how Baudelaire negotiates, transforms and deflects the art of his time.

In Baudelaire's Salon writings, as the critic pronounces judgment on what he sees from exhibition to exhibition, there emerges a vocabulary of praise and critique that comes to signal to the reader either satisfaction or scorn. What appears before the eye is transformed into a kind of prose in which the critic not only tells the reader which paintings he likes or dislikes, but also lets a recurring set of terms signify valorized aspects of particular works. Common to the genre of art criticism, these kinds of terms allow for the identification of traits that for the critic are indicative of well-executed art. For Baudelaire, one of the major sets of vocabulary for describing a successful image involves different kinds of light. In the Salon de 1846, Baudelaire claims that the Ingres school has not been effective in landscape painting because "la ligne et le style ne remplacent pas la lumiere, 1'ombre, les reflets et ratmosphere colorante." (4) This goes beyond Baudelaire's usual privileging of color over line (in fact, color is last on his list) and favors the interplay of light, dark, and reflection. The words that return again and again across Baudelaire's Salon writings to praise and commend invoke a pure, clear light: lumineux, transparent, limpide, clair, illuminer, briller. (5) The poem "La Beaute" is frequently associated with the frustration of the poet faced with the enigmatic figure of Beauty. (6) Although the poem implies frustration and anguish in front of Beauty's mysterious nature, it also contains a valorization of that enigmatic allure that connects to Baudelaire's discussions of sculpture in the art criticism; more specifically, "La Beaute" relates to how Baudelaire transforms sculpture into another medium, painting, through his writing. How Baudelaire manipulates sculpture is what connects the art criticism to the poetry through the willful construction of two mirrors that can only reflect one another, along with the aid of light and eyes that cannot see. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

All That Glitters: Connecting Baudelaire's Art Criticism and Poetry
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.