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Kay Johns, BA (Hons) Fine Art: Sculpture, Northbrook College 2005. Email info@kayjohns.net


Contextualising quotations by Charles Baudelaire and Marie Bashirtseff in relation to gender and sexuality within Modernity and Modernism.

“The crowd is his domain, just as the air is the bird’s, and water that of the fish… To be away from home, yet to feel at home anywhere; to see the world, to be at the very centre of the world, and yet to be unseen of the world”

Charles Baudelaire, The Painter of Modern Life, 1863, quoted in Bauderlaire: Selected Writings on

Art and Literature trans. P.E. Charvet (Viking 1972)



“What I long for is the freedom of going about alone, of coming and going of sitting on the seats in the Tuileries, and especially a luxury of stopping and looking at the artistic shops, of entering the churches and museums, of walking about the old streets at night; that’s what I look for; and that’s the freedom without which one can’t become a real artist”.

Marie Bashkirtseff, c1880, quoted in Perlingier, I.S. Sofonisha Anguissola, New York 1992 p120

I shall start by first describing the period of Modernity and Modernism, before analysing

the first quotation above in relationship to Modernity. I will then reflect upon these ideas

within Modernism by referring to a style of painting called impressionism. I have chosen

a painting by Edouard Manet called La Musiqsue au Tuileriers to assist with expressing

the quotation by Charles Baudelaire. I will then analyse the second quotation by Marie Bashkirtseff in relationship to Modernity, reflecting upon these ideas within Modernism

also by referring to impressionism. I have chosen a painting by the female artist Mary Cassatt, which is called At the Opera. I will then talk about my findings, before concluding.


During the mid - 19 th Century, progress and technology were advancing very quickly within the Western World such as Europe and later on America. Cities were expanding, due to the migration of people moving between Countries and into the Cities. In Paris Baron Hausmann redesigned the city creating large parks and wide boulevards. Factories were appearing and social and economic changes were taking place, such as integrating different segments of society within the workforce. Faster means of transportation and communications spread everywhere, such as shipping railroads and telegraph systems. In 1889 the Eiffel Tower was built and later in 1900 The Paris Metro underground transport network was built. 1 Technology and invention were at the forefront of this period, categorized by the word “Modernity” which has such a broad terminology of understanding, as it appears to group together the development of a wide range of technologies, structure and social changes within a society, uniting them under a banner of progress labelled “Modernity”. 2 Co-existing during this period the art scene in France was also experiencing an upheaval of transformation towards its own modernity known as Modernism, which was also reminiscent of a banner encompassing an eclectic mix of the arts, including poetry, philosophy, science etc. 3 Within the art movement, Modernism rejected the domination of Naturalism and Academicism in favour of experimental art. 4 Naturalism represented a style based on natural colour tones and textures 5 and Academicism was governed by a set of rules that were taught in the Academies, which promotes classical ideals of beauty and artistic perfection. 6 All avant-garde Modernisms rejected these views and shared a common bond that they had something new to offer, that this newness and experimentation was what made them artists and set them apart from others. They believed that culture needed to be reinvented, as traditional art forms were dated and needed to be replaced. This new approach was to seek answers to fundamental questions

1 Paris-History http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paris, Nov. 2005

2 Turner, J, The Dictionary of Art, Macmillan Publishers Ltd., London, 1996, p.777.

3 Ibid, p.776.

4 Little, S, Isms Understanding Art, Herbert Press, 2004, p.98

5 Ibid, p.37.

6 Ibid. p.64.


about the nature of the arts and the human experience, consequently leading to a progression of exploration of Modernity within the arts. 7 During this time of Modernity the individual became very important, the importance of self was one of the main features of the flanuer, also known as the dandy. The dandies had a similar carefree approach to life as the Bohemians; they both rejected bourgeois values and appeared to have no place in society along with no interest in social climbing. The main difference being that the Bohemians lived in poverty, where as the Dandies were quite wealthy and chose to mimic the aristocracy by wearing flash clothing, and

adopting innate characteristics. 8

towards freedom from the aristocracy by use of image, as a tool, to climb the social ladder, attempting to achieve the privilege of that class. 9 Flaneurs/Dandies where strollers they spent hours grooming, dressing in the latest fashion so they could pose like aristocrats amongst the crowd. Charles Bauderlaire was a famous known flaneur, critic and poet; he loved to be amongst the crowd in public places such as gardens, parks, cafes etc. Flaneurs would go to the theatre, dance halls, bars and brothels, anywhere that took their fancy, and often squandered their money by gambling and fruitful living.

Consequently this carefree life style forced many dandies including Baudelaire into poverty and subsequently became, their bohemian counterparts. Baudelaire was addicted to drugs such as opium and hashish. 10

However the middle class bourgeoisie were fighting

Charles Baudelaire quoted:

“The crowd is his domain, just as the air is the bird’s, and water that of the fish… To be away from home, yet to feel at home anywhere; to see the world, to be at the very centre of the world, and yet to be unseen of the world” 11

7 Ibid, p.98.

10 Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867) http://www.kirjasto.scifi/baudelai.htm. Nov. 2005.

11 Baudelaire, C, The Painter of Modern Life, 1863, translated by Charvet, P, Viking, 1972, p.399.


He it talking about the importance of self, primarily himself, a flaneur walking the streets,

he feels totally free to go anywhere, watching the activities of people in the crowd and in

various situations. His arrogance and joy of life is apparent, he is not shy or nervous, but

totally relaxed and content. He wishes to express a child-like quality in a God-like way,

convincing himself that his dominance of the world is seen only by the shadow of his

own phantasmagoria.

To assist with expressing Baudelaires quote, I have chosen the painting - La Musique au

Tuileries (see Fig 1). 12

(Fig 1)
(Fig 1)

The idea of the painting, La

Musique au Tuileries 1862, by

Edouard Manet was actually

prompted by Baudelaire, they

were very good friends and

would often hang out together.

This crowd scene expresses the

life style of the wealthy

boulevard society. The tonality of the painting is thought to be inspired by Baudelaire,

thus giving an over view of harmony. The different layers and levels of people in the

painting appear to give the viewer an invite to walk through the crowd. Almost giving a

feeling that the viewer is yet another level in this painting, being part of the crowd, but to

be unseen by the crowd. This crowd study depicts Manet himself, and Baudelaire along

with his other friends, family and acquaintances. 13

Described by Author Pierre Courthion

Several of the people in the painting are recognizable. Manet’s friend Albert de Balleroy, a painter of genre and hunting scenes, stands at the left wearing a monocle, behind him, at the extreme left, we catch a glimpse of Manet himself. Zacharie Astruc, critic, poet, and sculptor, is seated slightly further back, and the man behind him with the moustache”, seen in three-quarter view, is the journalist, Aurelien Scholl. Moving to the right we next see Fantin-Latour, facing outward, then Baudelaire in profile, the beared

12 Courthion, P, Manet, Harry N Abrams Inc., 2004, p. 51. 13 Ibid, p.50.


Theophile Gautier, and Champfleury. The seated lady who wears a veil and holds a fan is Mme Le Josne, the wife of a senior officer, while the women in a blue hat is Mme de Loubens, the wife of a master from the school in the rue de Rocher. Eugene Manet, the artist’s brother, stands in the centre with his hands behind his back, and to his right sits the composer Offenbach. 14

During this period of Modernism the avant-garde held beliefs that their art was new and

would set them apart from others, this also took them into realms of human existence,

questioning the layers within the human condition. 15 This importance of self became

much more evident which may have been aided by the use of opium amongst artists

during this time. However while the men of the upper classes had all this freedom to

roam, women of the 19 th century were beginning to fight for their rights. Feminists in

France were on the rise, starting their first feminist daily newspaper, and women’s clubs

were starting to appear. This coincided with protests and meetings to rally against the

treatment of the poor, and was one of the reasons the lower class were often called the

dangerous class as they protested against the government. Even though the voice of the

people was heard, they still had an up hill struggle to get any sort of charity and welfare. 16

Prostitution was rife in France, at one end of the scale there was the lower class woman

forced into prostitution to make ends meet, while at the opposite end of the scale was the

courtesans, who were kept mistresses of the bourgeoisie, and often chose this lifestyle for

its luxury. Even though these two lifestyles were very different, both groups were

enslaved by men objectifying their bodies. 17 Women generally were enslaved by

domesticity and didn’t even have the right to vote in France until 1944. 18

Marie Bashkirtseff 1858-1884 was a Ukrainian born Russian Artist, most famous for her

diary about the struggles of women artists. She was born into a wealthy noble family and

traveled with her mother across Europe. She was educated privately and studied painting

at the Academie Julian, one of the few establishments that accepted female artists. She

14 Ibid. p.50. 15 Rodrigues,C; Garrett,C, Introducing Modernism, Icon books Ltd., 2001, p.78.

16 Breaking the Socialtypes of the 19 th Century French Poor. http://www.mtholyoke.edu/courses/rschwart/hist255-s01/eponine2/eponine-home.html. Nov. 2005

18 Women’s Suffrage http://www.ipu.org/wmn-e/suffrage.htm. Nov. 2005.


spoke five languages and wrote several articles for a feminist newspaper. She died young just before reaching her 26 th Birthday. 19

Marie Bashkirtseff quoted:

“What I long for is the freedom of going about alone, of coming and going of sitting on the seats in the Tuileries, and especially a luxury of stopping and looking at the artistic shops, of entering the churches and museums, of walking about the old streets at night; that’s what I look for; and that’s the freedom without which one can’t become a real artist. 20

She dreams of going about without a chaperone, without being stared at, or facing the subject of ridicule, she desperately wants things to change, to look into the future, her

future of being recognized as a real artist, equal to that of men

content, and craves the delight of being a flaneur, roaming alone anywhere she pleases.

She clearly was not

The impressionist painting that I have chosen to express this quotation is by an America artist Mary Cassatt; the painting is called At the

Opera 1879 (see Fig 2). 21

(Fig 2)
(Fig 2)

Here we see a woman, possibly the artist, she appears to be alone in an opera box. She is looking through opera glasses, actively focusing at the stage. She is dressed in black and appears very confident. In the background a man is looking through opera glasses at her. He is rather insignificant, and she obviously doesn’t notice him. Her presence in the painting holds its own, even with the male gaze. She is holding both the active and passive roll at the same time, which implies her equality.

19 Marie Bashkirtseff: A homage http://www.geocities.com/mbashkirtseff/01_english3htm?20051. Nov. 2005.

20 Borzello, F, A World of Our Own: Women as Artists, Thames and Hudson, 2000, p.135.

21 Effeny, A, Cassatt, Studio Editions Ltd, 1993, p. 63.


This is a quite an unusual painting for its time, and the dream of change in society is clearly evident. However Mary Cassatt did actually do some things on her own, she would just get on regardless of social convention, though, being a women meant that Berthe Morisot and herself were excluded from the Impressionist meeting places like the Café Guebois. This took them to thinking up innovative ways to exercise new contexts and compositions within their conventional domestic spheres. 22 Generally the subject matter of the impressionists mainly seemed to focus on the typical lifestyle of the bourgeois, such as leisure, and family life, depending on gender. Usually women would paint everyday scenes of domesticity, while men would paint scenes of leisure, such as café and Street scenes. 23 The opera was one of the few places of leisure that both women and men were accepted socially. 24 Mary Cassatt used this social advent to her advantage, depicting a woman as part of a society where women would be dominating the scene, twisting the concept of the usual dominating male gaze into oblivion. While in reality the male counterpart was obviously dominant over women and the male gaze depicted this by actively looking at women as objects and shows of spectacle. Yet even with these differences, similarities did occur within parallels, as both male and female painters would sometimes deal with similar subjects, but in different ways, which would imply their similarities, yet within their own spheres. For example in recent years writings by feminists have compared women artists of that era by using the term flaneuse, to compare with the flanuer, because they both looked upon their own lives and viewed them in their own way. Both their experiences of viewing were very different, but, nevertheless, both viewed. 25 However while the focus of art history was predominately seen to be male, the male would equally have restrictions emplaced due to the indoctrination of social conditioning, within the social spheres of a society. This equally needs to be addressed, as the male appears to be the dominating force within conventional spheres, yet, this has only happened due to the indoctrination of both sexes within society. During the reign of Napoleon III, the rights of the people were cleverly glossed over by economic prosperity, streamlining Paris into the new modern city, creating large parks and wide boulevards,

22 Ibid, p.132.

23 Little, op.cit, p.85.

24 Heather Thompson - The Female Impressionist as Flaneuse http://prizedwriting.ucdavis.edu/past/1999-2000/thompson.html. Nov. 2005

25 Ibid.


using the power of consumerism as yet another form of state control, designed to blur and manipulate by, the powers that be, to achieve its goal. 26 However this may have helped the struggle of women artists, as independent art schools for women were being advertised such as the Academie Julian who sought to capitalize on the situation, 27 knowing that he could charge twice as much to teach female students compared to their male contemporaries. 28 Consequently this led to an increase of women wanting to be taught, which started the ball rolling towards women’s own Modernity within Modernism, thus bringing women artists into a much brighter light for the Twentieth Century.

Upon conclusion it appears, that while the stepping-stones for women’s rights were being placed, feminism was still only in its infancy during this period, and that is why the central figures of Modern Art History were primarily male, because of the limitations imposed upon women. Consequently these differences between the sexes depicted a different version to modernity as they both took on very different roles within society, the male counterpart was obviously dominant over women and the male gaze depicted this by actively looking at women as objects and shows of spectacle.

26 Impressionism – Revenge of the Nice, (Matthew Collins Channel 4, GB, 2005).

27 Ellen McBreen – Academy of Women http://www.artnet.com/Magazine/reviews/mcbreen/mcbreen2-7-00.asp. Dec.2005.

28 Borzello, op.cit., p.136.



Ash, R, Impressionists and their Art, Time Warner Books UK, 2003.

Baudelaire, C, The Painter of Modern Life, 1863, translated by Charvet, P, Viking, 1972.

Borzello, F, A World of Our Own: Women as Artists, Thames and Hudson, 2000.

Courthion, P, Manet, Harry N Abrams Inc., 2004.

Deepwell, K, Women Artists and Modernism, Manchester University Press, 1998.

Easthope, A; Mc Gowan, A, A Critical and Cultural Theory Reader, London Open University Press, 1992.

Effeny, A, Cassatt, Studio Editions Ltd, 1993.

Garb, T, Bodies Of Modernity, Thames and Hudson Ltd., 1998.

Krell, A, Manet, Thames and Hudson Ltd., 1995.

Levenson, M, The Cambridge Companion to Modernism, The Cambridge University Press, 2003.

Little, S, Isms Understanding Art, Herbert Press, 2004.

Mancoff, D, Mary Cassatt, Frances Lincoln Ltd., 1998.

Pollock, G, Vision and Difference, Routledge, 1988.

Reckitt, P; Phelan, P, Art and Feminism, Phaidon Press Inc., 2002.

Rodrigues,C; Garrett,C, Introducing Modernism, Icon books Ltd., 2001.

Slatkin, W, Women Artists in History, Prentice-Hall Inc., 1985.

Turner, J, The Dictionary of Art, Macmillan Publishers Ltd., London, 1996.


Websites and Internet Sources

Academy of Women by Ellen McBreen

22 nd December 2005

Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867) http://www.kirjasto.scifi/baudelai.htm 26 th November 2005

Edouard Manet: Public Spaces, Private Dreams http://artcyclopedia.com/feature-2001-03.html. Nov. 2005. 26 th November 2005

France in the Age of Les Miserables

26 th November 2005

Marie Bashkirtseff: A homage

26 th November 2005

Overcoming Obstacles in Late Nineteenth-Century France: Part II, Mary Cassatt

26 th November 2005


26 th November 2005

Heather Thompson - The Female Impressionist as Flaneuse

26 th November 2005

Women’s Suffrage http://www.ipu.org/wmn-e/suffrage.htm 26 th November 2005

Television Programmes

Impressionism – Revenge of the Nice, presented by Matthew Collins, Channel 4, GB,