Decorative Initial The parallels, the convergences, what Henri Lemaitre, an editor of Baudelaire, calls the "résonances analogues" (lxix) in the art criticism of Ruskin and Baudelaire are many and interesting. To begin with, Ruskin and Baudelaire each defend a great colourist,  Turner and Delacroix. Each sees his favourite as the perfect artistic representation of the age. Each sees himself as the interpreter of an artist who, isolated by genius, is so original that few can understand or appreciate him in his own time. Ruskin begins Modern Painters in 1843, as Baudelaire begins his Salon de 1845, to defend his favourite painter against the malice and ignorance of periodical critics. Each proceeds to formulate as part of his defence a theory of art; and to create this theory of art each transfers the criteria, methods, and emphases of romantic poetic theory to the criticism of painting (my discussion of romantic critical theory is, of course, dependent upon M. H. Abrams). Each as a result independently creates a romantic version of the principle of ut pictura poesis. And, having formulated a romantic theory of painting emphasizing the role of emotion, each is so troubled by the potentially distorting effects of emotion that he draws a portrait of an ideal artist-poet, who, though deeply emotional, can yet paradoxically remain impassive when moved.

Ruskin Self-portrait 1title1

Left: John Ruskin, Self-portrait. Right: Charles Baudelaire

Both critics accept the notion of ut pictura poesis as a first principle. Not only do they believe that painting and her sister art, poetry, share the same emotional nature, treat the same subjects, and create the same effects, but they also hold that the critic can profitably use the terms painting and poetry, painter and poet, interchangeably. Ruskin and Baudelaire base their conception on the belief that the two arts share a common nature and function — to express the thoughts and feelings of the artist-poet. According to Ruskin, the basic fact about painting is that it "is properly to be opposed to speaking and writing, but not to poetry." Both painting and speaking are meanings of expression. Poetry is the employment of either for the noblest purposes.... Great art is produced by men who feel acutely and nobly; and it is in some sort an expression of this personal feeling" (5.31-2). And since Ruskin and Baudelaire focus their aesthetic theories upon the creator, and are most concerned to describe the nature and process of expression, they characterize the artist, like the poet, primarily not by his ability to imitate, but by his ability to express himself. Baudelaire, for example, epitomizes painters as "des hommes qui sont voués è l'expression de l'art" (329), and throughout Ruskin's works, he, even more than Baudelaire, emphasizes that this notion of expression is a key to art and its appreciation. Ruskin, for example, concludes the final volume of The Stones of Venice with this remark on the importance of this idea of expression: "[W]hatever may be the means, or whatever the more immediate end of any kind of art, all of it that is good agrees in this, that it is the expression of one soul talking to another, and is precious according to the greatness of the soul that utters it. And consider what mighy consequences follow from our acceptance of this truth! what a key we have herein given us for the interpretation of the art of all time!" (11.220) See also: 5.69, 11.201, and 3.135. [295/296]

Ruskin and Baudelaire's Romantic Interarts Theories

Decorative Initial R

uskin and Baudelaire believe painting and poetry should be judged by criteria particularly appropriate to a theory of art centred on the expression of individual reactions. For example, each holds that sincerity is an essential requisite of both creator and creation. Of course, ever since Horace advised poets that to move the reader they must themselves be moved, it had been a critical commonplace that the writer must feel the emotion he wants to convey; but romantic critical theory, with its great debt to eighteenth-century ideas of sublimity, to ideas which stressed an authentic aesthetic experience, placed new importance on the creator's sincerity.

Another criterion which owes much to the eighteenth-century roots of romanticism is intensity. Theories of sublimity, which were frequently concemed with violent emotional reactions, made intensity of aesthetic experience a matter of concern; and intensity became even more important with the growth, in the eighteenth century, of epistemologies that conceived that emotion and imagination — not conscious intellect — grasp all that is important to man and art. As Ruskin explains, since we perceive by means of the imagination's emotional processes, the more intense our emotion, the deeper will be the imagination's glance, the surer its grasp of truth: "Wholly in proportion to the intensity of feeling" which you bring to the subject you have chosen, will be the depth and justice of your perception of its character" (16.370). Elsewhere, Ruskin explains this relationship between intensity of feeling and perception in more detail: "[T]here is reciprocal action between the intensity of moral" feeling and the power of imagination; for, on the one hand, those who have keenest sympathy are those who look closest and pierce deepest, and hold securest; and on the other, those who have so pierced and seen the melancholy deeps of things are filled with the most intense passion and gentleness of sympathy" (4.257). In other words, the imagination's distinguishing quality and strength is that it sees with intensity: "The virtue of the Imagination is its reaching, by intuition and intensity of gaze (not by reasoning, but by its opening and revealing power), a more essential truth than is to be seen at the surface of things" (4.284). Therefore, since intensity becomes so closely related to the means of perceiving what is true, intensity becomes a criterion of both artistic perception and aesthetic experience.

This same notion of intensity also enters their conceptions of art and artist. The belief that the artist must be an intense, passionate man appears, for example, both in Ruskin's remark that "If you are without strong passions, you cannot be a painter at all" (22.17), and in Baudelaire's many descriptions of great painters and poets. His favourite painter is characterized as "un volcan" (438), a passionate, intense, even obsessed man: Delacroix, whose work in later years "n'était plus seulement une passion, mais aurait pu s'appeler une fureur" (444), "était passionnément amoureux de la passion" (426). Similarly, Balzac, "visionnaire passionné" (678), is, like Delacroix and another favourite, Poe, marked by his concentration of feeling and by his intensity of vision.

For Baudelaire, though not for Ruskin, this valuation of intensity necessarily becomes not only a criterion of the man but also a criterion of his art; and Baudelaire, who praises Poe because "sa poésie est toujours" d'un puissant effet" (638), most values literary forms which can achieve the emotional energy he seeks in all the arts. The lyric poem, the short work in prose, fit this requirement because they are brief enough to sustain the brief moment of intensity. When Baudelaire espouses Poe's defence of the short lyric in "The Poetic Principle," he is, like many romantics, choosing the lyric as the ideal form. Again, he has in mind the same ideal when he remarks that Poe made a wise choice of "la Nouvelle" as his favourite form, because "Elle a sur le roman è vastes proportions cet" immense avantage que sa brièveté ajoute è l'intensité de l'effet" (630). This is one point, however, at which Ruskin and Baudelaire part company; throughout his works Ruskin appears to value the more "objective" literary forms, drama and epic, most highly, and although he never overtly disapproves of the lyric, whenever he judges authors, writers of lyrics, even his favourites — Wordsworth, Keats, Tennyson — are placed in the second rank (5.205n).

Since Ruskin and Baudelaire so emphasize the primacy of imagination, it is to be expected that they should consider the presence of its effects, or the sign of its workings, a necessary criterion of both great art and great poetry. Ruskin thus pointedly transfers the praise of imagination, so central to romantic poetic theory, to the criticism of painting when he states that the most important "characteristic of great art is that [296/2297] it must be inventive, that is, produced by the imagination. In this respect, it must precisely fulfil the definition given of poetry; and not only present grounds for noble emotion, but furnish these grounds by imaginative power" (5.63). Writing from an identical position, Baudelaire assumes that all artists can be divided into two camps, the imaginative and the unimaginative:

[C]elui-ci, qui s'appelle lui-meme réaliste, mot è double entente et dont le sens n'est pas bien déterminé, et que nous appellerons, pour mieux carac- tériser son erreur, un positiviste, dit: 'Je veux représenter les choses telles qu'elles sont, ou bien qu'elles seraient, en supposant que je n'existe pas. L'univers sans l'homme. Et celui-lè, l'imaginatif, dit: 'Je veux illuminer les choses avec mon esprit et en projeter le rellet sur les autres esprits.' [329]

Ruskin agrees both that art should necessarily be discussed in these terms and that imaginative art is characterized and given value by the fact that the artist illuminates his subject with his own spirit. The author of Modern Painters parallels Baudelaire, for example, when he contrasts historical with imaginative painting: "[H]istorical or simply narrative art is very precious in its proper place and way, but it is never great art until the poetical or imaginative power touches it.... [T]he highest art is purely imaginative" (5.64-5). Whereas the unimaginative artist, according to Ruskin, must content himself with topographical studies, with simple depiction of fact, "if a painter has inventive power he is to treat his subject in a totally different way; giving not the actual facts of it, but the impression it made on his mind" (6.32). Imaginative art, says Ruskin, has "infinite advantage" over reality, over our presence at the scene depicted, because "the expression of the power and intelligence of a companionable human soul" provides a "penetrative sight and "kindly guidance" that sharpens our vision and feelings (5.187). In other words, a great painting, or a great poem, allows us, for a brief moment, to see through the eyes and imagination of one greater than ourselves.

Since Ruskin, like Baudelaire, so insists upon the importance of imagination, it is somewhat surprising that, unlike Baudelaire, he not only grants some value to unimaginative, positivist art, but praises it highly in certain contexts. His seeming lack of consistency disappears when one realizes that he believes "imaginative art always includes historical art . . . for all imagination must deal with the knowledge it has before accumulated; it never produces anything but by combination or contemplation. Creation, in the full sense, is impossible to it" (5.64). Furthermore, Ruskin not only believes "the imagination must be fed constantly by external nature" (4.288), but, because he must defend Turner against the charge of not being able to paint like nature, he is forced, particularly in the first volume of Modern Painters, to emphasize that, indeed, Tumer recorded visual fact more successfully than any previous artist. Finally, Ruskin's desire to instruct the neophyte leads him to insist that the beginning painter must learn the world of fact before he can venture into the realm of imagination:

From young artists nothing ought to be tolerated but simple bonâ fide imitation of nature.... Then, when their memories are stored, and their imaginations fed and their hands firm, let them take up the scarlet and the gold, give reins to their fancy and show us what their heads are made of. We will follow them where they choose to lead . . . they are then our masters, and are fit to be so. [3.623-4]

Baudelaire, in contrast, chooses to defend Delacroix, not as Ruskin did Turner, by stressing fact first and the higher truths of imagination second, but by proceeding directly to a defence of the imagination. This difference of strategy arises, in part, because whereas Turner's critics allowed that he was imaginative but held he could not paint accurately, Delacroix's critics apparently did not even seem to recognize the value of imaginative art. Here, as in many places, the polemical, defensive intentions of these two theorists explain their formulations of similar points.

Ruskin's and Baudelaire's emphasis on the expression of feeling in art again appears when they write about colour, which they believe to be the specifically romantic element in romantic painting. Ever polemical writers, they emphasize the importance and they stress the beauties of colour, in large part, because Turner and Delacroix had been attacked for their use of it. Ruskin thus makes the value of colour a major principle in his defence of Turner and the art of painting: "[O]n this issue hangs the nobleness of painting as an art altogether, for it is distinctively the art of colouring" (7.412). According to Ruskin, colour is important, because it speaks to the feelings, and because "it is meant for the perpetual comfort and delight of the human heart" (6.71). "Colour is, therefore, in brief terms, the type of love" (7.419). Colour, which is thus in Ruskin's view, the embodiment of feeling in visible form, is the only element of technique or visual quality that Baudelaire mentions in his definition of romanticism: "Qui dit romantisme dit art modeme, — c'est-è-dire intimité, spiritualité, couleur, aspiration vers l'infini, exprimées par tous les moyens que contiennent les arts" (103). He groups colour with attitudes or qualities of feeling and spirit, because, like Ruskin, he considers it to be feeling embodied in visible form. Moreover, in this definition of romanticism Baudelaire makes the same connection between colour, spirituality, and aspiration towards the infinite that Ruskin proposes in the second volume of Modern Painters. In the course of setting forth his [298/299] theories of beauty Ruskin explains that, because man instinctively desires the infinity that is God, he therefore finds all things beautiful which symbolize, or exemplify, such divine infinity. The limitless gradations of colour and curves of lines are the two sources in painting and the visual arts of what Ruskin calls the "typical beauty of infinity": 'What curvature is to lines, gradation is to shades and colours. It is their infinity, and divides them into an infinite number of degrees" (4.89). In a following section on the typical beauty of unity (the kind of beauty which symbolizes "The Divine Comprehensiveness" [4.92]), Ruskin adds that such infinite variety is most beautiful when it forms the "unity of Sequence . . . [which is] the melody of sounds, the continuity of lines, and the orderly succession of motions and times" (4.94-5). The gradations of colour and the beautiful unities which they form are, according to Ruskin, a source of beauty for which man instinctively yearns and which he instinctively enjoys. Although Baudelaire does not have such a theological version of the old notion of unity and variety which he applies to colour, he does arrive at much the same conclusion about the unity and infinity of colour: "La couleur est compée de masses colorées qui sont faites d'une infinité de tons, dont l'harmonie fait l'unité" (147).

Because both writers stress the harmonic arrangements and melodic variations of color in visible beauty, they have frequent occasion to write about music as a second sister art to painting. Baudelaire, for example, follows an elaborate paysage verbal with the following extended analogy between visual and musical beauties: "Cette grand symphonie du jour, qui est l'éternelle variation de la symphonie d'hier, cette succession de mélodies, où la variété sort toujours de l'infini, cet hymne compliqué s'appelle la couleur. On trouve dans la couleur l'harmonie, la mélodie, et le contrepoint" (160). Ruskin, who frequently draws analogies between music and painting, particularly when he wishes to emphasize the irrational, hidden aspects of creation describes painting as "playing a colour violin . . . and inventing your tune as you play it" (15.416). (For other music-colour analogies made by Baudelaire see: 327, 147, 148, 136, and 129: others made by Ruskin: 15.135, 15.432-3, 10.215, 14.26, 20.203.)

Their defence of colourists leads Ruskin and Baudelaire from the artist's work to a theory of colour and thence to the social implications of colour itself. One conclusion they draw is that the romantic artist must use colour, the element of feeling, to combat the inherent greyness of the times in which he lives. Ruskin, for example, contrasts the brightness, the life, the intensity — the colour — of the middle ages with the colourlessness of the nineteenth century:

[I]t is evident that the title 'Dark Ages,' given to the mediaeval centuries, is, respecting art, wholly inapplicable. They were, on the contrary, the bright ages; ours are the dark ones. I do not mean metaphysically, but literally. They were the ages of gold; ours are the ages of umber.... [W]e build brown brick walls, and wear brown coats . . . There is, however, also some cause for the change in our tempers. On the whole, these are much sadder ages than the early ones; not sadder in a noble and deep way, but in a dim wearied way, — the way of ennui, and jaded intellect, and uncomfortableness of soul and body. The Middle Ages had their wars and agonies, but also intense delights. Their gold was dashed with blood; but ours is sprinkled with dust. Their life was inwoven with white and purple: ours is one seamless stuff of brown. [5.321-2]

Without Ruskin's nostalgic mediaevalism, Baudelaire says much the same things when he comments upon the greyness of modern dress:

N'est-il pas l'habit nécessaire de notre époque, souffrante et portant jusque sur ses épaules noires et maigres le symbole d'un deuil perpétuel? Remarquez bien que l'habit noir et la redingote ont non seulement leur beauté politique, qui est l'expression de l'égalité universelle, mais encore leur beauté poétique, qui est l'expression de l'âme publique; — une immense défilade de croque- morts, croque-morts politiques, croque-morts amoureux, croque-morts bourgeois. Nous célébrons tous quelque enterrement. [196]

The seamless stuff of brown, the perpetual mourning, the ennui and jaded intellect of modern life are finally, of course, what makes the art of Turner and Delacroix, the gift of their colour, life, and feeling, so precious to Ruskin and Baudelaire — precious because so needed and so wanting, so necessary and yet so misunderstood. Merely by adding bright reds and deep blues, intense colours, to a bleak modern land- and cityscape, these men are, in a sense, prophets and seers. To be one of the great artists, then, a painter must not only be sincere, intense, and imaginative, but he must also bring colour, the element of feeling, to his work. [300/301]

Intensity, Sincerity, and Emotion-Centered Art Theory and Criticism

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Ruskin's and Baudelaire's conception of the ideal artist appears when they qualify the usual romantic notion of the creator as an emotional man. We have seen that they accept the characteristic description of the artist-poet as the man of feeling who creates his art by expressing his sentiments and imaginings; but at the same time that they defend the sincere feelings and praise the intense passion of their favourite painters, these critics distrust emotion itself. Ruskin's famous definition of the Pathetic Fallacy explains his reason for fearing the effects of emotion on art: "All violent feelings have the same effect. They produce in us a falseness in all our impressions of extemal things, which I would generally characterize as the 'pathetic fallacy'" (5.205). Emotion distorts, emotion limits the art based on it to a narrow subjectivity, and yet the dilemma which both Ruskin and Baudelaire must face in their critical theory is that, although they are aware of the difficulties of basing art on emotion, they hold, as a first principle, that feelings are at the centre of artistic creation.

Both men independently arrive at the same solution: they reshape previous conceptions of the romantic poet, positing an ideal artist-poet who is paradoxically both sensitive and impassive, deeply moved and yet serene. For Baudelaire, Eugene Delacroix is the perfect example of this ideal [300/301]:

Delacroix était passionnément amoureux de la passion, et froidement déterminé è chercher les moyens d'exprimer la passion de la manière la plus visible. Dans ce double caractère, nous trouvons, disons-le en passant, les deux signes qui marquent les plus solides génies, génies extrêmes qui ne sont guère faits pour plaire aux âmes timorées, faciles è satisfaire, et qui trouvent une nourriture suffisante dans les oeuvres lâches, molles, imparfaites. Une passion immense, doublée d'une volonté formidable, tel était l'homme. [426]

Ruskin's ideal creator also possesses "ce double caractère": "[T]he greatness of a poet depends upon the two faculties, acuteness of feeling, and command of it. A poet is great, first in proportion to the strength of his passion, and then, that passion being granted, in proportion to his government of it" (5.215). Ruskin also sees that such a perfect artist will hardly please "ames timorées":

He is tender to impression at the surface, like a rock with deep moss upon it; but there is too much mass of him to be moved. The smaller man, with the same degree of sensibility, is at once carried off his feet . . .; he is gay or enthusiastic, melancholy or passionate, as things come and go to him. Therefore, the high creative poet might even be thought, to a great extent, impassive (as shallow people think Dante stern), receiving indeed all feelings to the full, but having a great centre of reflection and knowledge in which he stands serene, and watches the feeling, as it were, from afar off. [5.210]

Ruskin, like Baudelaire, delights in picturing the artist whose greatest power is over himself, and throughout his works he repeatedly draws the portrait of the ideal artist-poet. In the fifth and final volume of Modern Painters, for example, he again describes the perfect artist-poet in terms that are strikingly similar to Baudelaire's portrayal of Delacroix as the man "passionnément amouleux de la passion et froidement déterminé a chercher les moyens d'exprimer la passion":

[A] painter needs to be as cool as a general; and as little moved or subdued by his sense of pleasure, as a soldier by the sense of pain. Nothing good can be done without intense feeling; but it must be feeling so crushed, that the work is set about with mechanical steadiness, absolutely untroubled, as a surgeon. . . . Until the feelings can give strength enough to the will to enable it to conquer them, they are not strong enough.

The artist must feel strongly enough to conquer his feeling: such is their solution. And if we characterize romantic critical theory as that which is primarily concerned with the nature of the artist, and with his means of creation, then it follows that, by creating a new ideal of the artist-poet, Ruskin and Baudelaire attempt to solve the difficulties of a romantic view of art in a characteristically romantic manner. [302/303]

Ruskin and Baudelaire on the Ideal Artist-Poet

John Ruskin and Charles Baudelaire were the first to create this ideal of the serene yet paradoxically emotional artist-poet, and they were the first to attempt to solve the problems created by emotion in a romantic theory of art by creating such an ideal. But if we look at some of the earlier writers and theorists whom we know that Ruskin and Baudelaire read, we can observe an interesting blend of French, English, and American hints, partial anticipations, and possible influences. Diderot, who stresses the artist's need for sang-froid, would seem to provide the earliest anticipation of Baudelaire's conception of the artist. In his "Essai sur la Peinture" Diderot states that the artist must maintain within himself a strict and rigorous balance between the forces of reason and emotion: "Sans cette balance rigoureuse, selon que l'enthousiasme ou la raison prédomine, l'artiste est extravagant ou froid" (1154). Diderot's "Paradoxe sur le Comedien" further emphasizes that to create great acting, painting, or poetry, one must control one's emotions: "C'est au sang-froid è tempérer le délire de l'enthousiasme. Ce n'est pas l'homme violent qui est hors de lui-meme qui dispose de nous; c'est un avantage réservé è l'homme qui se possède" (1008). Although Diderot, like Baudelaire, does see a need for balance and coolness, his conception of the artist and of the creative process is really quite different, since unlike Baudelaire, who emphasizes the emotions, Diderot assumes that "La sensibilité n'est" guère la qualité d'un grand génie" (1009). In other words, like Boileau, Dryden, Reynolds, and other French and English neoclassical theorists, Diderot believes that conscious reason, the intelligence, and not the emotions create art; and were it not for Diderot's praise in his "Éloge de Richardson," of the novelist's "coeur très sensible" (1059), one could take the statements in "Paradoxe sur le Comédien" as a typical neoclassical warning against the dangers of enthusiastic emotion. Diderot's critical theory is, in fact, mid-way between neoclassical views of the artist, based on a hierarchical psychology of reason, will, and passions, and romantic views of art, centred on theories of emotional perception and a sympathetic imagination. Thus, whereas earlier writers on painting (and many of those contemporary with Diderot, as well) believe that reason is the faculty that creates art, and whereas romantic theorists, among whom we number Baudelaire and Ruskin, hold, in contrast, that the emotions and imagination are responsible, Diderot appears to believe that the artist [302/303] first perceives by sympathy and feeling, and thent in a separate step or process, creates with his judgment.

A Tangle of Influences and Confluences: Ruskin and Baudelaire

Coleridge's notion of the ideal romantic poet who combines "judgement ever awake and steady self-possession, with enthusiasm and feeling profound or vehement" (II, 12)> also partially anticipates Ruskin and Baudelaire; but it is unlikely that this statement from the Biographia Literaria influenced either critic, since there is no evidence to suggest that they had read that work.

Lemaitre comments that the similarities between Baudelaire and Coleridge are primarily due to the influence of Poe and Mrs. Crowe, The Night Side of Nature (London, 1848), from both of whom Baudelaire indirectly derives the Coleridgean distinction between fancy and imagination (324-5n). Ruskin's similar distinction may have come from Wordsworth's prefaces, or from Leigh Hunt's Imagination and Fancy (1844). In his chapters on the imagination Ruskin borrows examples from Hunt's work, which he deems an "admirable piece of criticism" (4.254n). In December 1843 Ruskin wrote to the Rev. W. L. Brown, remarking, "I never heard of the Coleridge and Wordsworth dispute" (4.391); and Ruskin's failure to cite" the Biographia, particularly when, as a young man, he had the habit of displaying his knowledge, suggests he never, in fact, read the work.

Carlyle, who influenced Ruskin directly and Baudelaire indirectly, would seem to have been the first to contribute importantly to both wnters' conception of the ideal artist-poet. Carlyle never concerns himself with the psychology of creation and is, indeed, suspicious of any attempts to describe parts or faculties of the mind, for as he states in On Heroes and Hero-Worship:

Divisions are at bottom but names . . . man's spiritual nature, the vital Force which dwells in him, is essentially one and indivisible . . . what we call imagination, fancy, understanding, and so forth, are but different figures of the same Power of Insight" [338].

Nonetheless, his portrait of the hero-poet implicitly contains the opposing elements that appear in both critics' notion of the artist. On Heroes and Hero-Worship states that the great man, be he poet or prophet, necessarily perceives emotionally — by sympathy, by the love he has for the things on which he fixes his gaze: The artist "could not have discerned the object at all, or seen the vital type of it, unless he had, what we may call, sympathised with it, — had sympathy in him to bestow on objects" (326). "To know a thing, what we call knowing, a man must first love the thing, sympathise with it" (339). At the same time Carlyle continually emphasizes that the hero-poet possesses the "calmly seeing eye" (336) "the clear deep-seeing eye" (312). However central to his idea of the hero, Carlyle's opposition of sympathy and impassivity remains implicit and undefined. Nonetheless it is possible, and even likely, that Carlyle's hero-poet provided hints Ruskin used: when Ruskin states in Carlylean terms that "The true Seer always feels as intensely as anyone else; but he does not much describe his feelings" (5.334), his choice of "Seer" would suggest indebtedness to the man whom, in later years, he came to accept as his master.

Baudelaire became acquainted with the idea of the hero, not from Carlyle, but from Ralph Waldo Emerson, Carlyle's American friend and disciple; and it is with a modification of Emerson's notion of the hero that Baudelaire describes Delacroix as the ideal artist:

Ce qui marque le plus visiblelnent le style de Delacroix, c'est la concision et une espèce d'intensité sans ostentation, résultat habituel de la concentration de toutes les forces spirituelles vers un point donné. 'The hero is he who is immovably centred,' dit le moraliste d'outre-mer Emerson.... 'Le héros est celui-lè qui est immuablement concentré' — La maxime que le chef du Trancendantalisme[sic] américain applique è la conduite de la vie et au domaine des affaires peut également s'appliquer au domaine de la poésie et de l'art. On pourrait dire aussi bien: 'Le héros littéraire, c'est-è-dire le véritable écrivain, est celui qui est immuablement concentré.'

In adapting Emerson's passing remark from The Conduct of Life (1860), Baudelaire returns, in effect, to the Carlylean conception of the hero-poet. But although Baudelaire drew upon Emerson's conception of the hero when he created his own ideal artist, it is difficult to ascertain the degree to which Emerson was a source of an idea new to Baudelaire, or merely served to confirm notions the French critic already possessed. In his essay "Théophile Gautier," published a year before the appearance of The Conduct of Life, Baudelaire already mentions as the centre of greatness that concentration which controls the hero-artist's strong emotions. In the essay on Gautier, he states that Balzac's characters, like the novelist himself, have this concentration characteristic of greatness: "Bref, chacun, chez Balzac, même les portières, a du génie. Toutes les âmes sont des âmes chargées de volonté jusqu'è la gueule. C'est bien Balzac lui-même" (679). In this comment about Balzac we seem to have the same conception of will that, three years later, is said to control the great artist's passion; so it would seem that even though Baudelaire did use Emerson's idea of the hero when he created his notion of an ideal artist, before he read the American author he had already developed many of the same points independently.

Baudelaire's perception of ideal cencentration and will in Balzac is interesting, because Ruskin, too, appears to have drawn upon the French novelist when he formed his notion of the artist-poet. In 1854, two years before he drew his portrait of the perfect artist in the third volume of Modern Painters, Ruskin copied a passage about the relation between passion and art from Balzac's Maximes et Pensées (1852) into his notebooks, typescripts of which the editors of the Library Edition made and then deposited in the Bodleian Library, Oxford:

Un artiste qui a la malheur d'être plein de la passion qu'[i]l veut exprimer ne sauraut la pei[n]dre[,] car il est la chose même, au lieu d'en être l'image. art procède [du] cerveau et non du coeur[.] [Q]uand votre sujet vous ne[,] vous en etres [êtes] l'esclave et non le maître[ ... ]. Sentir trop vivement au moment où il s'agit d'executer, c'est insurrection des sens contre la faculté. [Bodleian Eng. misc. c. 220]

I have not been able to locate tbe original manuscript. The typescript omits all French accents except tbose on maître and faculté. Ruskin found this discussion of passion and art in Balzac's Maximes et Pensées (Paris: Plon, 1852), p. 190. The volume should not be confused with a later Pensées et Maximes (Paris: Lemerre, 1909). On the facing page in his notebook, next to this passage, Ruskin made a comment that is the first version of his conception of the ideal artist:

Consider with reference to this, the perfect serenity and absence of feeling — in Dante as a relater — The poetry does not profess to be written under influence of feeling — All poetry which does is humbug. Mean poets are influenced by feeling as they write — Dante looks quietly about for images to paint feelings which he had, not which he has.                   [304/305]

These notes towards a definition of the artist, which appear coloured by the Wordsworthian notion that poetry originates from emotion recollected in tranquillity, already emphasize "serenity" and "absence of feeling," and use Dante as the central example. The portrait is not yet complete, since the accent on the paradoxial nature of the artist is missing, for Ruskin has not yet taken into account his belief that the poet must be a passionate, intense observer.


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he most important, the most interesting parallels between Ruskin and Baudelaire are not, however, to be found in similarly complex intluences which acted upon their literary and art theories, or even in the point by point correspondences that occur in their writings. Rather, that two men, so different in temperament and range of interest, should have independently created romantic theories of art coincident at major points suggests that the transfer of romantic poetic theory to the art of painting had to follow an almost necessary pattern. Furthermore, that both Ruskin and Baudelaire should find it necessary to reshape the usual romantic notion of the artist suggests the limitations and difficulties of a romantic art theory, of which both were aware. And that both saw a need to protect art from emotionalism and subjectivity may have resulted from the visual nature of the art they allied to poetry; for since both believed that painting was an art that, however imaginative, had to be judged by visible fact, they therefore brought a conservatism to their alliance of the arts. Another explanation, similar to the first, is that their debt to eighteenth-century writers, particularly writers on painting, had a conservative influence on their poetic theory. For whatever combination of causes, these writers found it necessary to modify the emotionalistic bases of their art theory; and, accepting a view of art which concentrated on the nature of the artist as the focus of theoretical (and often of critical) discussion, Ruskin and Baudelaire attempted to solve the problems of excessive emotion by modifying the portrait of the artist as an ideal man. [306]

Last modified 6 May 2019