In The Painter of Modern Life, Charles Baudelaire writes an artist must completely surround him or herself with all that is the modern world in order to ascend to the highest level. He states, “The pleasure which we derive from the representation of the present is due not only to the beauty with which it can be invested, but also to its essential quality of being present.” In his mind, the person who best depicts his viewpoint is what he refers to as the flaneur, who is rather like a bohemian bum. It is a person who walks through life simply absorbing all that is around him or her. Although produced more than a 150 years ago, Baudelaire’s concept of the flaneur and veracity of the expression remains relevant today.
In his essay, Baudelaire champions Monsieur Guys, who was a writer for the Illustrated London News. He feels Guys is one of those men of the crowd that takes what he sees and turns it into art. That is Baudelaire’s other main point: that the artist must be able to accurately depict what they see. For Baudelaire, the lines did not need to be straight, the colors a perfect blend or the painter illustrating some tremendous theme. A modern artist was able to transfer their visions, reflections and interpretations of the most modern elements of society into a piece of art that showed all he or she had gleaned. It did not matter if it was simplistic or not stylish. The point was that it accurately portrayed what was going on in the world at that time. Therefore, Baudelaire’s vision of a modern artist, was the precursor to the ideas and movement that became modern art. Again, this a concept that is still viable to this day.