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The Painter of Modern Life

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Grayson Randall

on 20 November 2014

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Transcript of The Painter of Modern Life

The Painter of Modern Life
Constantin Guys
Born December 3rd, 1802
Was a Dutch water-color painter and illustrator
The essay "The Painter of Modern Life" is mostly written about his work, however, he is referred to as "Monsieur G"
I. Beauty, Fashion, and Happiness
Baudelaire contextualies his understanding of art by breaking it down into two main qualifications:

The first is the intrinsic aesthetic value of the art produced
Charles Baudelaire
Born on April 9th, 1821 in Paris, France
Was a French Poet and Art Critic
Famous for the term "Modernism"
Wrote "The Painter of Modern Life" about the ideals of Modernism and Constantin Guys
Died in August of 1867
IV. Modernity
III. The Artist, Man of the World, Man of the Crowd, and Child
Baudelaire describes Guys as:
Shy, does not want to be named
"Truth to tell, he drew like a barbarian, or a child, impatient at the clumsiness of his fingers and the disobedience of his pen"
Not an artist but a man of the world, he has seen and wants to know, understand, and appreciate everything that happens on the globe
He gets drunk off of inspiration similar to how a child gets drunk off of learning colors and shapes. Sees world with child-like curiosity and excitement.
The Dandy
II. The Sketch of Manners
“The depiction of bourgeois life and the pageant of fashion”
The technical means that is the quickest, most efficient and cheapest
Lithography prints are preferred to paintings
Lists his contemporaries
“A relative, circumstantial element, which will be, if you like, whether severally or all at once, the age, its fashions, its morals, its emotions” (3)
Although a piece can have perfect style and aesthetics, if the historical context does not agree with the era in which the artist creates the work, it will cause the work to be less good by its nature.
The artistic quality “…might be described as the amusing, enticing, appetizing icing on the divine cake”
“Beauty is made up of an eternal, invariable element whose quantity is excessively difficult to determine” (3)
The second is the historical context the art exists in:
In Praise of Cosmetics
Resents people who “can yet be bored in the heart of multitude”
Guys ultimate strength is his capacity for seeing and his capacity for expression of his sight.
Charles Baudelaire uses Guys as his example for his discussion of modern art
“By ‘modernity’ I mean the ephemeral, the fugitive, the contingent, the half of art whose other half is the eternal and the immutable.”
"He is looking for that quality which you must allow me to call modernity"
“Every old master had his own modernity; the great majority of fine portraits that have come down to us from former generations are clothed in the costume of their own period. The are perfectly harmonious, because everything … combines to form a completely variable whole."
Matching quality and context makes the master’s work great
Artistic quality is the “soul”, Artistic context is the “body” - The goal is to have them mirror each other.
Modernity cannot be original without existing in it's contemporaneous context
Constantin Guys - In the Street
An observer before an artist
Capturing life in the streets of Paris
Pierre-Auguste Renior - Luncheon of the Boating Party
Pierre-Auguste Renior - By the Seashore
Edgar Degas - Two Dancers Entering the Stage
Pierre-Auguste Renoir - La Loge
1874, Oil on Canvas
Capturing beauty in a moment
Watched live performances
An experiment in beauty
Takes place at a theatre
Fashion and wealth being flaunted
Shows the context in that time period
Oil on Canvas, 1874
Depicts bourgeois lifestyle
Showing how life looked in that day in age
1880, oil painting
1802, Ink and watercolor over graphite
1883, Oil on canvas
French Caricatures - Paul Gavarni
Sketch capturing real life as people saw it
A snapshot of the time period
"Implies that a quintessence of character and a subtle understand of the entire moral mechanism of this world....[and] aspires to insensitivity"
"The man who is rich and idle, and who, even if blasé, has no occupation than the perpetual pursuit of happiness; the man who has been brought up amid luxury and has been accustomed from his earliest days to the obedience of others- he in short, who's solitary profession is elegance, will always and at all times possess a distinct type of physiognomy, one entirely sui generis" ( of his own bread - Latin)

Wealth is necessary for dandy-ism
The writer sees the great masters as "modern" for his/her respective times
For the Dandy, wealth is a means to an end, not the objective
The goal is distinction
Committing crimes or going against the status quo is a heroic act if committed in the name of dandyism. Petty crimes committed outside of the call to dandyism are considered obscene.
"He will smile like the Spartan boy under the foxes tooth"
Olympia - Edouard Monet
"The distinguishing characteristic of the dandy's beauty consists above all in an air of coldness which comes from an unshakeable determination not to be moved"
The Luncheon on the Grass - Edouard Monet
His form of Dandyism
The author frames women as ultimate source of delight, and as inexplicable as the nature of god
"She is a divinity, a star, which presides at all the conceptions of the brain of man; a glittering conglomeration of all the graces of nature condensed into a single being"
"Everything beautiful and noble is the result of reason and calculation"
Rejects human nature as obscene and fearful
Good requires effort
Fashion should thus be considered as an assumption of the taste for the ideal which floats on the surface of all the crude
Antiquity of previous fashion trends
"Woman is quite within her right , indeed she is even accomplishing a kind of duty, when she devotes herself to appearing magical and supernatural"
Makeup is amplifying beauty
It is the responsibility
Full transcript