1821 - 1867
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Charles Baudelaire was born in Paris on April 9, 1821. His mother, Caroline Archimbaut-Dufays gave birth to Charles when she was 28-years-old to a much older man Francois Baudelaire of sixty-one. Charles' father instilled in him an appreciation for art. Francois Baudelaire's best friends were artists and he often took his young son to museums and galleries. Charles often sat by his father's side at his easel to watch his father paint. Some of Charles' earliest memories were of the times his father took him to the Palace of the Luxembourg to explain the statues that were there. Baudelaire twice stated, "Pictures, my only, my greatest and my earliest passion (Shanks 7)." When Charles was six, his father died and Charles became very attached to his mother.
A year after his father's death, Charles' mother married Captain Jacques Aupick. Charles now was forced to share the affection of his mother. Gone where the times when his mother was completely his. Aupick also did not like to share the love of his new wife with the son of another man, but his intentions to raise Charles where good. His strategy was, however, not the best. Aupick was a strict discipliarian. He expected a spoiled child who had, previously, been raised by a man with the love of the arts to obey an order without hesitation like a new soldier.
When Charles was eleven, the family was moved to Lyons. With this move, Charles was sent to a boarding school. He was away from home except for holidays. This was a far cry from the days he spent in Paris by his mother's side. "Lyons with its slums and its consoling mysticism gave Baudelaire the background for his first meditations upon existence (Shanks 15)." While at school, Baudelaire often thought about Paris and the days when he was happy with his mother and of his father lying in his grave. The school was ruled by military discipline which caused much of Baudelaire's solitude and "fits of crushing melancholy" (Shanks 16). Baudelaire resented the strict ways in which he was forced to live and was, in turn, difficult and rebellious. At the boarding school in Lyons, he was frequently getting into fights with other students and even his teachers. The situation improved when the family was moved back to Paris in 1836 and he attended College Louis-le-Grand, but only slightly. In April 1839, the year he was to earn his baccalaureate, he was expelled from the College Louis-le-Grand.
In May of 1841, Baudelaire was sent on a voyage to the Indies "to remove him from bad influences." After ten months of the eighteen month trip, Baudelaire demanded to be sent home. On his twenty-first birthday, Baudelaire received his father's inheritance, but his lavish and extravigant lifestyle caused the fortune to start to dwindle. In 1844, his parents obtained a court order to supervise his money and Charles recieved only a small allowance. In 1842, Charles began an affair with Jeanne Duval. She had the features of a Creole, perhaps from San Domingo. "This girl of another race who like a slave let him drape her in his exotic dreams. He loved her for her saveage blood, defiantly."
Baudelaire used his writting to shock and astonish society - perhaps because of his strict upbringing and strong opposition to nearly everything that had happened in his life. He often focused on the immoral and cynical. He felt that his ideas where very similar to those of Edgar Allen Poe. Baudelaire and Poe where both focused on beauty, death, and the bizarre. Baudelaire formed a brotherhood with Poe and began to translate volumes of his work from english into french. Baudelaire is attributed with much of Poe's popularity in England and France because of his translations.
In 1857, Baudelaire's work, "The Flowers of Evil" was seized by French authorities and Baudelaire was forced to omit six poems and to pay a fine. He then began to work as an critic and was very well known. He published his 1845, 1846, and 1859 "Salons" in which he did remarkable studies on many artists. He also published many brief journal reviews and reviews of much larger literary work such as Flaubert's "Madame Bovary". In 1860, Baudelaire published "Paris Spleen," a collection of about fifty prose poems, a poetic form unknown in France.
In 1862, he had a minor heart attack which may have quickened his death. In 1867, while in Belgium, Baudelaire developed hemiplegia and aphasia. He was brought back to Paris and died on August 31, 1867.
The Art Gallery ---Pictures of Charles Baudelaire plus samples of his art reviews.
Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du Mal
Excerpts from Baudelaire's journals.
Baudelaire's Le Spleen de Paris
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