Smith, Anta Kennedy. Painted Poetry: Colour in Baudelaire's Art Criticism

By Hiddleston, J. A. | Nineteenth-Century French Studies, Spring-Summer 2012 | Go to article overview

Smith, Anta Kennedy. Painted Poetry: Colour in Baudelaire's Art Criticism


Hiddleston, J. A., Nineteenth-Century French Studies


Smith, Ann Kennedy. Painted Poetry: Colour in Baudelaire's Art Criticism. Modern French Identities no. 63. Bern: Peter Lang, 2011. Pp. 242. ISBN: 978-3-03911-09.

Studies of colour in Baudelaire's art criticism have tended to take the form of essays and articles or to be part of a wider assessment of his outlook and practice. Clearly, there was a need for a thorough examination of the matter, and this book can be said in large measure to have filled a noticeable gap. The author's method is predominantly historical, both in the opening chapter on perceptions of colour before Baudelaire, and in subsequent chapters where she traces the evolution of the poet's thinking from the early Salon de 2845 to that of 1859. University students will be grateful to find in one place a lucid and reliable account of the contribution of such important predecessors of the poet such as the Poussinistes and Rubenistes, de Piles, Diderot, Newton, Goethe, Planche, Fourier, and many others, together with an account of attitudes to the hierarchy of genres, "Ut pictura poesis," and the development of the Salon. Similady, the chapter on "The Science of Seeing" gives a rapid and lucid account of theories of colour from Runge to the pivotal figure of Chevreul whose positive and possible links to Baudelaire and also to Delacroix are carefully examined.

The "substantifique moelle" of the book, however, is the long third chapter, "Colour and Drawing: Resolving the conflict?" It presents a painstaking account of every nuance of the development of the poet's shifting attitudes to these apparently antithetical elements which are said to be finally resolved in 1859. The focus is mainly on his understanding of Delacroix, of course, and Ingres, and the argument, well supported from a close reading of the texts with plentiful quotations and resumes, carries conviction. More stress could perhaps have been placed on two considerations which are relevant to Baudelaire's position as a journalist. The first is that in his publications he has to be mindful of his public, its convictions, prejudices, and sensitivities. …

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