Charles Baudelaire

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Though Baudelaire himself produced very few works and was considerably more appreciated after his death than during his lifetime, he was one of the most significant influences in both England and France…
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Though Baudelaire himself produced very few works and was considerably more appreciated after his death than during his lifetime, he was one of the most significant influences in both England and France as a critic and an inspiration. He was one of the first to declare "l'Art pour l'Art," Art for Art's Sake, what was to become the primary tenet of the Aesthetic (and later the Decadent) movement and a distinct contradiction from the school of thought that art's purpose is to enlighten and improve individuals or society. Similarly, his combination of gritty realism and metaphor combined with symbols and patterns was adopted by the Symbolist movement. After the deaths of his parents while he was still young, he led a turbulent life, perhaps in reaction to their strict upbringing. He inherited his father's large fortune in 1842, but spent so much of it so extravagantly over the next two years that relatives were able to put the remaining capital in a trust, from which he received only an allowance. He supplemented this by writing art criticism and later by translating the works of Poe and de Quincy, whom he greatly admired. His first and strongly autobiographical novel La fanfarlo appeared in 1847 and was followed ten years later by his most famous work, the poetry collection Les fleurs du mal (The flowers of evil). The book's erotic contents, enhanced by its hedonistic amorality, resulted in a conviction of obscenity. Undaunted, he produced an expanded version in 1861 and later published a volume of prose poems, a new genre in France. He also continued to write articles, many of which were published after his premature death from venereal disease.

His more erotic poems have attracted many song composers, particularly Fauré, Debussy, Vierne, Sorabji, and Duparc in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and Frans Vuursteen in the later twentieth.