In vague and general terms, an artist can be defined as someone who creates something. Yet Charles Baudelaire wrestles with this word in order to describe M.C.G in his piece, “The Painter of Modern Life.” He narrowly defines “artist” in order to express how the word is not enough to describe M.C.G. He states, “…I was not dealing exactly with an artist but rather with a man of the world…By ‘man of the world’, I mean a man of the whole world, a man who understands the world and the mysterious and legitimate reasons behind all its customs; by ‘artist’, I mean a specialist, a man tied to his palette like a serf to the soil. M. G. does not like being called an artist…” (2) He reduces the definition of the word by seemingly removing any intention or thought out of the creation of the work, and just comparing it to skill and labour. He continues, “the majority of artists are, let us face it, very skilled brutes, mere manual laborers, village pub-talkers with the minds of country bumpkins. Their talk; inevitably enclosed within very narrow limits, quickly becomes a bore to the man of the world, to the spiritual citizen of the universe.” (2) According to Baudelaire, the artist is not inherently special, intelligent, or interesting, but instead just a person who has specialized in their respective skill whether it be sculpting, painting, writing, etc. It can be assumed, this reductive attitude also removes genius and vision from the artist’s defining qualities, because he adds the idea of genius, and childlike vision of the world to the qualities of M.C.G, alongside artist. This suggests the artist is merely a craftsman, and other qualities such as interest in the world, genius, vision, and innovation are separate. This definition may have been related to the publishing process of art in magazines as it was not only artists reproducing their own work. Perhaps according to Baudelaire, the engraver or anyone else involved in the reprinting process can also be viewed as an artist.
Baudelaire, Charles. “The Painter of Modern Life and Other Essays.” 1863.