Caricatures and Graphic Arts: Introduction
Glorifier le culte des images (ma grande, mon unique, ma primitive passion).
— Baudelaire, Mon cœur mis à nu
Baudelaire had a lifelong passion for the visual arts and visual culture. His interests ranged from high art to popular culture, from the impassioned style of Romantic painters to the graphic artists of the baroque. In his texts on caricature, Quelques caricaturistes étrangers and Quelques caricaturistes français, Baudelaire expresses his opinions on graphic artists from different time periods and different traditions. Baudelaire’s choice of artists to discuss and even the opinions he offers may seem somewhat haphazard. Nevertheless these texts are an essential complement to his treatise on the comic, De l’essence du rire et généralement du comique dans les arts plastiques, and contain an outline of some of his esthetic theories.
The texts and images exhibited are meant to evoke some of the artists Baudelaire critiques and summarize his opinion of them. The artists Baudelaire describes may not necessarily be caricaturistes, but there is a caricatural dimension to their art that appealed to Baudelaire. Quelques caricaturistes étrangers and Quelques caricaturistes français reveal Baudelaire’s eclectic tastes and show how the visual often served as a springboard for the demonstration of his literary prowess.