The Flowers of Evil: The Balcony

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800px-bazille_la_toilette1 Frederic Bazille-La Toilette 1870 It is impossible to overestimate the influence of Charles Baudelaire upon modernity. The entire Symbolism/Decadent movement that so dominated the 19th Century fin-de-siecle in Europe owed its very existence to Baudelaire.

Baudelaire’s importance extends far deeper that the creation of one transitory artistic school however. Although he didn’t invent the concept of dandyism (that honour belongs to Beau Brummel), his example gave it a wider cultural currency that eventually resulted in the carefully constructed persona of the ultimate aesthete and wit, Oscar Wilde. His wanderings around the Parisian streets led to Walter Benjamin formulating a new type of man, theflaneur. Thefigure of the flaneur recurs frequently inBenjamin’s massive, unfinished magnum opusThe Arcades Project. The spirit ofthe Baudelaireanflaneurguided the Surrealists in their impromptuflea-market jaunts and nocturnal adventuring. TheSituationist International (see Moving Images) took theflaneura step further and the central…

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