• BAUDELAIRE, Charles-Pierre
        (1821-67)


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        Poet and Critic


      • It's surprising to think that though today Baudelaire is considered one of the most important poets to have ever lived in his own lifetime he didn't receive the recognition his work deserved. His book of poems Les Fleurs du Mal, 1857 (he was 36 when it was published), was a landmark in introducing the modernist sensibility through its Romantic realism and freedom from conventional tradition. On its publication it was predictably attacked on the grounds of immorality.

        Besides his poetry, he was an influential critic of literature, painting and music. Baudelaire was a passionate admirer of Poe and De Quincy and translated some of their works.

        According to The Thames and Hudson Dictionary of Art and Artists, 'Baudelaire had a Romantic view of the poet as an exceptional being born to exemplary suffering, but his verse has a density and power rarely found in his Romantic predecessors. Les Fleurs du Mal can be read as a history of the human soul, oscillating between extremes of horror and delight ('l'horreur de la vie, l'extase de la vie'). Baudelaire interprets both nature and man's creation - i.e. towns and works of art - as patterns of interlocking symbols. In this he was no doubt influenced by his reading of Swedenborg, and he was one of the originators of the literary movement later to be known as Symbolism. It has been argued that Les Fleurs du Mal is a carefully constructed whole, and that Baudelaire intended a final version of the cycle.'

        'His work includes private diaries (Mon coeur mis a nu), a volume of prose poems, and many critical articles collected in Curiosites esthetiques (publ. posth. 1868) and L'Art romantique (publ. posth. 1868).'

        He died in poverty, in his mother's arms, on August 31, 1867, in a Paris clinic. He is buried in the Cimetière du Montparnasse, Paris


      • Further Reading: The Thames and Hudson Dictionary of Art and Artists (World of Art)

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