I enjoy the work of Claude Monet as much as anyone -- there is or was a wonderful room at the Art Institute of Chicago that I fondly recall, it being close to a decade since last I was in Chicago, as containing nothing but examples of Monet's paintings of haystacks and of the cathedral at Rouen -- but there is something to be said for the notion that a person is making progress in the realms of Art Appreciation on the day he or she (1) knows the difference between Claude Monet and Édouard Manet and (2) decides that Manet is ultimately the more interesting painter. Or the other way around, as you prefer.
The humanity-packed scene above is Manet's Music in the Tuileries Gardens, currently featured in Rebels and Martyrs: The Image of the Artist in the 19th Century at London's National Gallery. As the curators point out (also here), Manet included himself in the painting at the left of the frame He also incorporated other notable figures of his acquaintance, including poet/novelist Théophile Gautier, composer Jacques Offenbach, and poet and critic Charles Baudelaire. The National Gallery earlier provided a handy spotter's guide to the painting.
Baudelaire is perhaps the hardest one to locate, as he appears here as a sort of human silhouette on the verge of disappearing, defined principally by his hat and his distinctive profile. Manet caught that same profile in an etching that is generally thought to have been made concurrently with the painting of the Tuileries.
(Baudelaire has long enjoyed pride of place on this weblog, providing for the Epigraphs section one of the "forests" in which I fool.)
While he knew, influenced and was influenced by Manet, Baudelaire also famously adored a recently-deceased American, Edgar Allan Poe.
Baudelaire invoked Poe's tale "The Man of the Crowd" in his long essay "The Painter of Modern Life," and that passage is quoted at the outset of Lillian Pizzichini's consideration of the Rebels and Martyrs show for The Social Affairs Unit. Jonathan Jones, writing about the show in the Guardian, suggests that he has detected the presence of Poe's own ghost, at least metaphorically, in Manet's painting. (Jones's piece is worth reading in full, providing as it does a reminder that notwithstanding the disappearance of a litany formerly entrenched empires and notwithstanding the extra sophistication with which we humans now mistreat one another, the 19th Century has never really gone away.)
Baudelaire's adoration of Poe is well known: he translated most of Poe's tales into French, as well as crafting a French prose translation of "The Raven." A separate translation of "The Raven" by Mallarmé later gave rise, to maintain our seamless web of interrelations, to a set of illustrations by, yes, Manet.
Baudelaire's citation of Poe in writing about painting sent me off to the Glendale Public Library, where I found a fine little 1952 collection (apparently now out-of-print) of translations of Baudelaire's essays on Poe. In his first take on the subject, "Poe - His Life and works" (1852), Baudelaire provides a brief biographical sketch of the American. We join Poe's life already in progress, following his 1822 return from boarding school in England, at which point after a brief university sojourn Baudelaire's version takes a sharp turn into the highly dramatic:
In 1825 he entered the University of Virginia which was at that time a center of dissipation. Edgar Poe distinguished himself among his fellow students by an exceptionally lively eagerness for pleasure. He was an excellent student and made incredible progress in mathematics; he had an unusual aptitude for physics and natural science, which may be noted in passing, since in several of his works there appears a great preoccupation with science; but at the same time he drank, gambled and behaved so wildly that he was finally expelled. When [his adoptive father] Mr. Allan refused to pay some gambling debts, he broke with him impulsively and ran away to Greece. It was the period of Botzaris and the Greek Revolution. Finally turning up in St. Petersburg, his purse and enthusiasm somewhat exhausted, he got into trouble with the Russian government for reasons unknown. It is said that the situation was so bad that Poe was about to add Siberia to his precocious knowledge of men and things. Finally, the intervention and help of Henry Middleton, the American Consul, enabled him to return home.
Poe fighting all Byron-like for Greek Freedom! Poe in Siberia! What wonderful fantasies these are. Baudelaire would have made a fine blogger, or perhaps a regular contributor to Wikipedia. Delightful.
On those lines, here is another little known Baudelairian fact:
Johann Strauss, "the Waltz King," was hugely impressed by Baudelaire's magnum opus, Les Fleurs du mal, so much so that he was inspired to adapt excerpts from it as an operetta, premiering it in 1874 under the collection's German title, Die Fledermaus.
This has been omitted from most of the standard entries on the subject for reasons unknown.