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Relative Color: Baudelaire, Chevreul, and the Reconsideration of Critical Methodology

jennifer phillips
La couleur est donc laccord de deux tons, writes Charles Baudelaire in his Salon de 1846.1 This insistence on color as being defined by a relationship of balance recalls a theory developed by the famous chemist Michel-Eugne Chevreul, who in his 1839 study on color modification, De la loi du contraste simultan des couleurs . . . demonstrates that the mutual influence of juxtaposed colors determines their appearance.2 The connection between Baudelaire and Chevreul has been alluded to by Baudelaire scholars such as Andr Ferran and Claude Pichois, who situate Baudelaires reflection on color in the context of the dissemination of Chevreuls theories through the cultural press of the 1840s without developing the interest of this association.3 More recently, Bernard Howells has convincingly demonstrated the value of reading Baudelaires Salon de 1846 in light of Chevreuls theories, but the importance of Chevreul to Baudelaire has also been vigorously contested by Georges Roque, an authority on Chevreul, who points instead to J. F. L Mrimes De la peinture lhuile (1830) as a more probable influence.4 Regardless, in discussions of Baudelaires appreciation of color, the connection with Chevreul has by and large been overlooked in favor of the influence of painters such as Eugne Delacroix and Emile Deroy (with whom Baudelaire ostensibly had firsthand contact).5 As a result, Baudelaires sensitivity to painters concerns about the role and handling of color in pictorial representation has been emphasized to the detriment of his clearly informed interest in contemporary color science. Yet, in a footnote to the introductory passage of the chapter on color in the Salon de 1846, De la couleur, Baudelaire specifies that he is describing pure color: . . . je ne parle ici que des tons purs (422). In other words, he is imagining hues themselves, the abstract color of the scientific theorists, not just the painters material pigments. The initial aim of this article is to bring scientific color theory, specifically Chevreuls, to a more prominent place amongst Baudelaires sources. For the reader unfamiliar with Chevreul, I begin by summarizing his theory of simul-


Jennifer Phillips

taneous contrast, although my reading of Chevreul necessarily highlights those aspects of his text that resonate with Baudelaire. Next, I read Baudelaires remarks on color in the Salon de 1846 with the intent of emphasizing the persistence in Baudelaires thought of the concepts for which color is emblematic. Detailing the connections between Chevreul and Baudelaire, however, also reveals that similar philosophical considerations underlie their theories of color.6 Both see color in relational rather than categorical terms; both believe that the principle of harmony determines the dynamics of color interaction; and both engage in a similar effort to challenge the distinction typically drawn between color as an incidental function of perception and as an essential property of light or of the objects it clothes. Chevreul and Baudelaire share theoretical objectives in reevaluating colors ontological status and in using color to establish the need to rethink the position from which it is analyzed and by extension the methods of either scientific analysis or art criticism. Chevreuls work on color is a landmark in the history of color science. In 1824 Chevreul was appointed Directeur des teintures des Manufactures royales at the Gobelins tapestry manufactory by Louis xviii, and shortly thereafter he had to respond to numerous complaints about the quality of certain colors prepared in his atelier. Through investigation, he came to the conclusion that the complaints about the stability of colors were not always the result of problems with the dyes as had been suspected, but rather of optical effects, namely the mutual influence of neighboring hues (xiii). He dubbed this effect contraste simultan, and eventually developed his initial observations into a monumental treatise on this visual phenomenon, demonstrating its scientific basis and detailing its practical applications for fine and industrial arts. The heart of Chevreuls discussion of color is his loi du contraste simultan whereby he asserts that the eye perceives two adjacent colors to be as different as possible:
Tous les phnomnes que jai observs dpendent dune loi trs simple, qui, dans le sens le plus gnral, peut tre nonce en ces termes: dans le cas o lil voit en mme temps deux couleurs contigus, il les voit les plus dissemblables possible, quant leur composition optique et quant la hauteur de leur ton. (11)

Juxtaposed colors enhance in each other the appearance of their respective complements, because for Chevreul what is most different from any given color is its complement. Chevreul relies on the basic principles of Newtonian optics to explain that an object of a given color reflects predominately the color that the object appears to be and absorbs the other rays of the spectrum. He then defines complementary colors as the two oppositely colored sets of light rays

Nineteenth-Century French Studies 33, Nos. 3 & 4 SpringSummer 2005


the one reflected and the other absorbed that taken together comprise the whole of the spectrum. The relationship between complementary colors is not only the key to understanding the terms of the law of simultaneous contrast, but also the basis for its proof. Chevreul asserts that colors placed side by side add their complements to one another, each augmenting the appearance of its complement in its neighbor. He then adds that while seen in isolation a colored body will reflect some rays of all colors in addition to the dominant one, when contiguous to a differently colored body, however, the reflected rays it shares with the second body become inactive (11). In essence, this second claim simply recapitulates the first. For example, if one were to juxtapose blue and yellow, any yellow that the blue might reflect would be neutralized, making the blue seem more purple, the absence of yellow heightening the impression of its opposite, purple; conversely, any blue that the yellow might reflect would be neutralized, making the yellow seem more orange, the absence of blue heightening the impression of its opposite, orange. Chevreuls emphasis on the relativity of color to its surroundings is in keeping with painters longstanding awareness of the transformational effects of color juxtaposition.7 Chevreuls contribution is to codify the understanding that both the value and hue of any given color are always relative to the color next to which it is placed. Moreover, he establishes that each individual color is itself always determined by a structural relationship with its own complement, because the law of simultaneous contrast indicates that the perception of one color always coincides with the influence of its complement, implying that color must be conceived of in terms of a relationship. In other words, color is essentially relative, with each individual color describing or containing an internal relation. Chevreuls idea of color therefore signals the ascendancy of the comparative over the absolute. Since color perception itself entails establishing relations, conceptualizing color also requires thinking comparatively rather than categorically. Furthermore, not only does Chevreuls discussion of simultaneous contrast define color in terms of relation between juxtaposed colors and their complements but it also suggests that the interrelation of color is an active process of reconciliation:
Or, deux couleurs juxtaposes o et p diffreront le plus possible lune de lautre, quand la complmentaire de o sajoutera p et la complmentaire de p sajoutera o: en effet, par la juxtaposition de o et de p, les rayons de la couleur p que o rflchit lorsquelle est vue isolment, rayons qui sont actifs dans cette circonstance, cessent de ltre lorsque o et p sont juxtaposes. Or, dans ce cas, les deux couleurs perdant chacune ce quelles ont danalogue, elles doivent diffrer davantage. (11)


Jennifer Phillips

Chevreul here portrays the juxtaposition of color as a dynamic encounter that entails an enhancement, as if by sympathetic contribution, of the complement, or the suppression, as if by mutual concession, of the common ingredients. He implies that the interaction of colored light rays is a balancing process and that there is an inherent tendency toward an equilibrium that manifests itself as difference. In the case of the juxtaposition of complementary colors, Chevreul offers a description of color modification that underscores the energetic interaction of color, lending color an animate quality. As complementary colors either receive or destroy (18-19) the light rays each other emit, they negotiate an equilibrium based on exchange and concession. Whether the oppositely colored light rays neutralize each other or supplement each others complement, . . . il est vident que les couleurs des deux objets juxtaposs doivent spurer lune par lautre et devenir plus vives (19). As colors purify and intensify each other, they move each other toward greater clarity and refinement. The terms Chevreul chooses here are not neutral and suggest that color acts in accordance with values that surpass the realm of physics. Although in the introduction to his work, Chevreul emphasizes that color modification is in fact a modification in the way color is perceived and not a modification of substance, his discussion of simultaneous contrast has drawn frequent criticism because he does not rigorously distinguish between the physics of light and the physiology of color perception. Rather than simply viewing this as an error on Chevreuls part, however, it is important to consider the logic behind his decision to incorporate the vocabulary of optics into his discussion of simultaneous contrast. In turning to the accepted Newtonian optical theories of the time to demonstrate how simultaneous contrast occurs, Chevreul provides objective proof for a subjective experience. This is consistent with the main goals of De la loi du contraste simultan: to establish a scientific approach to the use of color in art and a method for taking advantage of subjective color effects in artistic production. At the time, subjective color phenomena such as afterimages and shifts in color due to changing conditions of light were widely regarded as purely fortuitous; in fact, color perception itself had long been considered unpredictable and unstable. Color effects, it was generally assumed, did not lend themselves to being objectively analyzed or taught as part of artistic science.8 Chevreul demonstrates color to be calculable in its effects and provides a formula for predicting color modification. For Chevreul, while subjective color effects may well be ephemeral and contingent, they are nevertheless inevitable, consistent, and logically coherent. Chevreul, then, not only incorporates color perception into an objective color science, he makes perceived color the necessary foundation for a scientific approach to color in art.

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Chevreuls approach to color also has important implications for scientific methodology. Chevreul had long held that subjective experience and experimentation are essential in determining the validity of a supposition. In his Considerations gnrales sur lanalyse organique (1824), he contests the notion of a self-evident truth and argues that to have value as truth, facts must be confirmed empirically.9 In De la loi du contraste simultan the nature of the object of Chevreuls study necessitates the incorporation of subjective perception within scientific analysis because Chevreul, by integrating an understanding of color as reflected light and as sensation, establishes color as being that which is outside of but is constituted through the perceiving subject. Since Chevreul insists that as a physical occurrence in the world color is known only through its manifestation in the perceiving subject, he points to a liminal space where objective knowledge exists through subjective perception, to a point where objectivity and subjectivity converge. In the conclusion to De la loi du contraste simultan Chevreul takes the role of subjective perception in the formation of knowledge one step further when he uses color vision as a model for mental perception.10 He hypothesizes that there is a universal tendency to perceive heightened contrast, no matter which two things one compares, and he draws the following conclusion: . . . le cerveau voit des ides et les juge comme il juge les couleurs quil peroit par lintermdiaire de lil . . . (554, Chevreuls emphasis). For Chevreul, color vision and judgment are analogous processes. Color is a function of opposition; likewise, the cognitive process is shaped by the logic of opposition. The paradigmatic status of color perception not only emphasizes the place of subjectivity in analysis, but also challenges the distinction between sensation and judgment, because Chevreuls speculation implies that as differentiation, color vision is thought. Chevreuls weighty analysis of simultaneous contrast and his interest in the control of subjective color effects for the economical and efficient production of art seem worlds apart from Baudelaires concerns as an ambitious critic wishing to make his review of the 1846 Salon a literary showpiece and aesthetic manifesto.11 However, Baudelaires references to pure or abstract color, to complementary colors, and to optics all show that color science was part and parcel of his understanding of contemporary artists and their technical concerns. To be sure, Baudelaires remarks on color need to be seen in the context of the ongoing polemic that pitted line against color, draftsmanship against coloring, and Neo-Classicism against Romanticism.12 Thus Baudelaires best known ideas about color are his eloquent defense of the role of coloring in painting and his promotion of colorist art, especially that of Delacroix. Throughout his Salon de 1846, Baudelaire seeks to elevate coloring by


Jennifer Phillips

demonstrating that the traditional hierarchy ranking draftsmanship over coloring is founded on false distinctions foreign to the natural world. Such statements as, . . . forme et couleur sont un, (424) directly contradict academic aesthetics, which equate the delimitation of form, and thus the representation of objects, with drawing. Following the same logic, Baudelaires assessment of Ingress technique as a draftsman is less favorable than that of Delacroixs technique as a colorist. The draftsman delimits forms dune manire cruelle et absolue, (458) and then proceeds to color them in. This mthode double creates work that is amer, pnible, and contentieux (458); of Ingress paintings specifically Baudelaire writes: Filles de la douleur, elles engendrent la douleur (460). By contrast, the technique of colorists is analogous to nature because they make no distinction between line and color. Colorists . . . dessinent parce quils colorent, (458) and Delacroix, the master of this method, produces integrated, harmonious works that capture movement and life, les palpitations ternelles de la nature (434). It is important to recognize, however, that Baudelaires elevation of coloring and colorist art actually stems from his assessment of color itself as revealed in the preliminary paragraphs of the chapter De la couleur. Here, Baudelaire evokes various colors in association with elements of a natural landscape, and in so doing dislocates the frames of reference within which color is to be located:
Supposons un bel espace de nature o tout verdoie, rougeoie, poudroie et chatoie en pleine libert, o toutes choses diversement colores suivant leur constitution molculaire, changes de seconde en seconde par le dplacement de lombre et de la lumire, et agites par le travail intrieur du calorique, se trouvent en perptuelle vibration, laquelle fait trembler les lignes et complte la loi du mouvement ternel et universel. Une immensit, bleue quelquefois et verte souvent, stend jusquaux confins du ciel: cest la mer. Les arbres sont verts, les gazons verts, les mousses vertes; le vert serpente dans les troncs, les tiges non mres sont vertes; le vert est le fond de la nature, parce que le vert se marie tous les autres tons. Ce qui me frappe dabord, cest que partout, coquelicots dans les gazons, pavots, perroquets, etc., le rouge chante la gloire du vert; le noir, quand il y en a, zro solitaire et insignifiant, intercde le secours du bleu ou du rouge. Le bleu, cest--dire le ciel, est coup de lgers flocons blancs ou de masses grises qui trempent heureusement sa morne crudit, et, comme la vapeur de la saison, hiver ou t, baigne, adoucit ou engloutit les couleurs, la nature ressemble un toton qui, m par une vitesse acclre, nous apparat gris, bien quil rsume en lui toutes les couleurs. (422-23)

The description opens with an appeal to the readers imagination, but although the rhetorical device whereby an author conjures up a visual image through a verbal description seems at first familiar, the picture Baudelaire proceeds to

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paint is no ordinary landscape. Formulated as an hypothesis (Supposons . . .), hypotyposis is used not to describe the extent of a definite landscape, but rather to evoke its conditions of possibility. Instead of describing color in terms of a painted picture (as one might expect in a piece of Salon criticism), Baudelaire imagines color beyond pictorial logic.13 In the variegated field of possibilities he evokes, the potentiality for visual landscapes lies within color, the root of visibility. Even as the substance of visual possibility, however, color is elusive, for it escapes the visual frame of reference. In the espace de nature, the color of things is a function of their constitution molculaire, and the metamorphosis of color is a result of the travail intrieur du calorique. If color is molecular, its permutations originating within objects, it is microscopic, and thus extends beyond the scope of the visible. As the invisible constitutive of the visible, color transcends the opposition between the two terms; through color, the category of visibility contains its opposite. Colors dual status as both visible and invisible is mirrored by its being both an actual property of substances and a function of perception. At first, Baudelaire locates color in objects as an essential quality, a function of their molecular constitution. He emphasizes the materiality of pure color by associating various hues with certain elements of a landscape, blue and green with the sea, for example, green with vegetation, blue with the sky.14 While the association of color with natural elements stresses the link between color and substance, Baudelaire also describes color effects that highlight the variability of color. To illustrate the effects of atmosphere on nature, he uses the image of a spinning top, comparing the atmosphere to an object in motion that appears gray regardless of whatever colors it may actually be. This description of an optical phenomenon emphasizes color as a subjective impression and draws a distinction between essential and apparent color a distinction akin to the one Chevreul toys with between color as a property of light and as sensation. In this way, color is revealed as a mobile category of being: now essential, now relative, color first appears as an objective quality, then as a matter of subjective perception. By positing color as incorporating and transcending the opposition between the objective and the subjective, between the visible and the invisible, Baudelaire joins Chevreul in establishing color as that which can be understood only through the fusion of different points of view, or as marking the relation between vision and the detection of that which lies beyond it. For Baudelaire, as for Chevreul, color not only escapes a singular mode of perception, but is also manifest through a process of interrelation. In the espace de nature, color is initially evoked through the verbs verdoyer and rougeoyer, appearing first as a dynamic activity, a process of becoming shaped


Jennifer Phillips

by the complementary colors green and red. In keeping with his initial formulation of color as a verbal action, Baudelaire depicts the relationship between colors as an ongoing process:
La sve monte et, mlange de principes, elle spanouit en tons mlangs; les arbres, les rochers, les granits se mirent dans les eaux et y dposent leurs reflets; tous les objets transparents accrochent au passage lumires et couleurs voisines et lointaines. A mesure que lastre du jour se drange, les tons changent de valeur, mais respectant toujours leurs sympathies et leurs haines naturelles, continuent vivre en harmonie par des concessions rciproques. Les ombres se dplacent lentement, et font fuir devant elles ou teignent les tons mesure que la lumire, dplace elle-mme, en veut faire rsonner de nouveau. Ceux-ci se renvoient leurs reflets, et, modifiant leurs qualits en les glaant de qualits transparentes et empruntes, multiplient linfini leurs mariages mlodieux et les rendent plus faciles. (423; Baudelaires emphasis)

In this vibrant landscape, color is continually defined by relation: mixture, reflection, and interconnection. Emanating from a blend of elemental principles, color surfaces as commingled tones. A series of reflective exchanges constitutes the scene. While certain objects impress their image on the reflective surface of the water, other objects, especially transparent ones, assume color as a function of their surroundings. Individual colors reflect their position with respect to each other while their value, their relative lightness or darkness, reflects their position with respect to the sun.15 The balance in the luminosity of colors, a continual process of give-and-take as the source of light moves, mirrors the relay of tones among each other. A rule of reflection determines every color as each absorbs and emits the spectrum of which it is a part. Since the relativity and reciprocity of color is a dynamic process of mutual modification and alliance between colors whether contiguous or distant, the espace de nature is knit together by the intangible fibers of received and reflected light and hue. This is the realm of Baudelairean correspondances the network of relationships between things that establishes a profound and universal continuity where objects are connected by shared attributes, where they illuminate each other through collective analogy.16 Baudelaires vision of color serves to remind us that correspondance is not a fixed, one-to-one comparison, but rather a process a dynamic flow and exchange of characteristics, a relay of identifications that are neither linear nor static, a suppression of autonomy in favor of reciprocity. An example of such correspondances can be found in the poem La vie antrieure, where the connections between elements of a landscape and between different sensory

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realms are used in depicting the volupts calmes of a past life: Les houles en roulant les images des cieux, / Mlaient dune faon solennelle et mystique / Les tout-puissants accords de leur riche musique / Aux couleurs du couchant rflt par mes yeux (ll. 5-8). The multiplication of reflective surfaces; the redoubling of reflection in the exchanges among the sea, the sky, and the poets eyes; the correlation of the visual and the auditory all of these synchronous interactions, which are repeated indefinitely in the past, evoke a blissful state of non-differentiation for which the poet is nostalgic. However, such proliferation of reflection through correspondances can also initiate a movement toward uncanny resemblance, as in the poem Les sept vieillards:
Un matin, cependant que dans la triste rue Les maisons, dont la brume allongeait la hauteur, Simulaient les deux quais dune rivire accrue, Et que, dcor semblable lme de lacteur, Un brouillard sale et jaune inondait tout lespace, Je suivais, roidissant mes nerfs comme un hros Et discutant avec mon me dj lasse, Le faubourg secou par les lourds tombereaux. Tout coup, un vieillard dont les guenilles jaunes Imitaient la couleur de ce ciel pluvieux, .................................................................................... Mapparut . . . (ll. 5-17)

Here, there is something artificial about correspondances, for as the street and houses simulate the river and its quays, the rags of the old man imitate the yellow, dirty fog, itself a reflection of the emotional state of the poet. These synthetic correspondances also set the stage for the eerie replication of the old man in his six look-alikes, a disruptive type of correspondance that threatens the stability of the poetic subject and provokes its retreat. Color in the espace de nature likewise points to the destabilizing potential of correspondances. While each hue has intrinsic properties, color is manifest through a system of interrelationship, for any one hue is necessarily modified by the transparent and borrowed qualities of others. This fundamental combination of the essential and the borrowed makes color impossible to break down into discrete or selfsame units. The color of something, be it the trees, the rocks, or the water, is thus always the fusion of the inherent and the attributed. Consequently, as a characteristic of objects or surfaces, color describes an essential otherness or a constitutive self-difference: it is that without which something is not itself but also that which takes that something outside itself by


Jennifer Phillips

necessarily inserting it in a system of exchange that undoes autonomy. In other words, because the color of a given object or surface is both inherent to that object or surface and contingent on its interaction with its surroundings, color simultaneously reflects the essence of something and inscribes within it that which is external to it. Color, then, incarnates the seeming paradox of an inherent contingency or essential accident. As such, color disrupts analysis and mobilizes rather than stabilizes perception, obscuring the frontier between objects and surfaces, and facilitating a slippage toward non-differentiation. In the Salon de 1846, Baudelaire reveals his theory of color through a poetic mise-en-scne in which color functions according to the logic of simultaneous contrast. Baudelaire depicts the constitutive relativity of color in a manner consistent with Chevreuls law of simultaneous contrast. Baudelaire also evokes the reconciliation inherent in colors interrelation. Mutual modification is not only a process in which colors natural haines or sympathies come into play, but also one in which concessions rciproques result in mariages mlodieux. As such, the reciprocal influence of both compatible and incompatible terms is determined by the principles of conciliation and consonance, and is consistent with Chevreuls accounts of the functioning of simultaneous contrast. Baudelaire also shares with Chevreul the belief that harmony based on scientific rules is intrinsic to color. Baudelaire emphasizes the organic character of color harmony by evoking color in the out-of-doors in connection with natural elements, and by detailing the harmonie parfaite (424) apparent when one studies the colors of a womans hand. Not only is color harmony inherent, but the colorists eye is a scientific instrument (La loupe, cest lil du coloriste [424]) that necessarily perceives harmony. The conclusion Baudelaire draws here emphasizes the logic and immanence of color harmony: . . . les tons, quelque nombreux quils fussent, mais logiquement juxtaposs, se fondraient naturellement par la loi qui les rgit (424). He also says that just as nature makes no mistakes in color arrangement due to les affinits chimiques, (424) the true colorist does not err either because he is guided by an inborn science: . . . il connat de naissance la gamme des tons, la force du ton, les rsultats des mlanges, et toute la science du contrepoint (424).17 So intuitive, Baudelaire claims, is the colorists sense of color harmony that were some anticolorist landowner to repaint his land in an absurd fashion, the il savant of the colorist would correct this and render on canvas an enjoyable, coherent unity (424). There is something primordial about color science and color harmony. However, in contrast to Chevreul, who merely hints that color behaves in accordance with aesthetic values, Baudelaire is explicit about his understanding that artistic principles govern the interaction of pure color. When Baudelaire

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describes the process of color transformation as cette grande symphonie du jour, and dubs color itself cet hymne compliqu,(423) he employs musical metaphors to confer artistic value on pure color. He concludes that the elements of musical form are essential to color: On trouve dans la couleur lharmonie, la mlodie et le contrepoint, (423) thereby implying the analogy of the aural and the visual. The aesthetic quality of colors and the artistic principles that govern their harmonious arrangement exist beyond painting, making the potential for an aesthetic experience of color harmony seem immanent and universal. In the context of the 1846 Salon, Baudelaires understanding of color harmony in its immanence and universality, is consistent with socialist art critics who explore the social implications of color harmony.18 For example, Thophile Thor, pioneer of a theory of lart pour lhomme, is sensitive to color as a purely pictorial value, because while he holds that art should communicate universal sentiments to uplift humanity, he also believes the moral value of art lies not in the subject but in the feeling or world view the artwork embodies: Il sagit donc, quels que soient le sujet et la forme dune uvre dart, tableau ou statue, que lartiste y fasse intervenir un sentiment intime, naturel, irrcusable, qui se communique aux autres hommes, qui les claire ou les moralise (107). In his own Salon de 1846, Thor therefore promotes the colorist Narcisse-Virgile Daz de la Pea because he uses color to create a sense of the world as a unified whole. According to Thor, Daz understands that there is an integrated system of influence between object and surroundings, and instead of trying to depict an object in isolation he paints, le gnral dans le particulier, refltant en quelque sorte le tout dans chaque partie (296). A true poet, Daz possesses la haute intelligence des harmonies et de lensemble and feels la vie universelle dans chaque atome de la cration (296). Daz thus captures the oneness of life, a sense of creation as a unified whole, which for Thor is arts true moral message. Like Thor, Dsir Laverdant, disciple of the utopian thinker Charles Fourier, integrates the social function of art with the appeal of its form to the senses.19 For him, in addition to depicting scenes of happiness, art can also promote a sense of well-being by inducing through its harmonious formal structures the very feelings and principles it seeks to represent. In promoting the social significance of artistic form, Laverdant, like most Fourierist critics, turns to colorist painters. He proclaims Delacroix the finest modern artist and emphasizes his ability to create infinite correspondence and agreement through color, thereby giving physical form to the universal law of harmony (404). Delacroixs use of color likewise illustrates the rule of diversity in unity: Observez . . . et vous remarquerez que partout, toutes les couleurs, toutes les nuances sont mles, confondues, combines savamment, et de cette con-


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fusion, de cette varit, rsulte distance, lunit de ton, la vrit mme (403). Interestingly, Laverdant elsewhere uses abstract or pure color to evoke the relationship between the three major passions, le sensuel, les affections du cur, and les facults intellectuelles, which combine to form a singular passion, Unittisme, just as les couleurs du prisme donnent le blanc (255). It is beyond the scope of this article to argue the extent of and reasons for Baudelaires overlap with socialist art critics.20 Nevertheless, it should be said that the social implications of Baudelaires color theory form more of a subtext than an explicit political agenda, although the fact that coloring is seen as a potential vehicle of a social meaning by Baudelaire and socialist art critics alike is still worth emphasizing, given that within modernist discourse form and social meaning are generally construed as antagonistic. When trying to ascertain the link between scientific and social theories of color that could explain their appeal for Baudelaire, one notes not only the polyvalent term harmony, but also the idea of color as an instance of reconciliation between ostensible opposites, be it between the part and the whole, between plurality and integrity, or between opposite colors themselves. The notion of color as harmony via contrast is a point where scientific, artistic, and political perspectives converge. And it is precisely because color challenges dualism, the oppositions serving as the basis for art criticism, that it is a concept that enables Baudelaire to reformulate the critics perspective. Thus in the introductory chapter of the Salon de 1846, A quoi bon la critique, Baudelaire describes a just critical perspective:
. . . la critique doit tre partiale, passionne, politique, cest--dire faite un point de vue exclusif, mais au point de vue qui ouvre le plus dhorizons. Exaltez la ligne au dtriment de la couleur, ou la couleur au dpens de la ligne, sans doute cest un point de vue; mais ce nest ni trs large ni trs juste, et cela accuse une grande ignorance des destines particulires. Vous ignorez quelle dose la nature a ml dans chaque esprit le got de la ligne et le got de la couleur, et par quels mystrieux procds elle opre cette fusion, dont le rsultat est un tableau. (418)

Although championing the cause of either line or color is presumably a position around which to forge a critical identity, Baudelaire uses such a stance to epitomize a narrow, and ultimately distorted, critical point of view. To justify this, he posits the mixture of color and line as categories of aesthetic appreciation and their fusion as the origin of art. Color, in fusing with its opposite, line, is the concept that allows Baudelaire to challenge the critic to forego thinking in terms of antitheses and of categories unified by sameness; it is based on his

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understanding of color as synthesis that Baudelaire proposes an expansive, inclusive critical perspective. Such a definition of the critics stance recalls Chevreuls position in De la loi du contraste simultan, to the extent that he integrates the subjective within the scope of scientific objectivity based on his own understanding of colors transcendence of ontological categories. Furthermore, by raising theoretical issues such as the simultaneously scientific and subjective nature of color harmony and the interpenetration of identity and difference, Baudelaire locates a critical imperative within a visual phenomenon, just as Chevreul assimilates color vision and judgment. In the case of Baudelaire and Chevreul, color is more than a topic common to both art and science. Because color always describes a relation, because it embodies the harmony of opposites, because it transcends the distinction between objective and subjective, and because it is a physical impression that involves judgment, color is a concept that enables the restructuring or the expansion of the analytic perspective, be it scientific or aesthetic.
Department of French Hamilton College 198 College Hill rd Clinton, ny 13323

1 Charles Baudelaire, uvres compltes, ed. Claude Pichois, vol. 2. All further references to page numbers in this edition and volume will appear parenthetically. 2 See Works Cited for this. All references to page numbers in this edition will appear parenthetically. 3 Ferran and Pichois both designate Chevreul as a source for Baudelaire. Ferran, 13945; Pichois, ed., 1296. In his introduction to the Salon de 1846, David Kelley follows Ferran, but emphasizes that Chevreuls importance stems from the fact that his ideas resonate with Baudelaires conception of the harmonious organization of the world, not just with his understanding of the laws determining color (28-29). 4 Howells argues the interest of a rapprochement between Baudelaire and Chevreul, rather than Chevreuls influence on Baudelaire (176); for Roque, there is not sufficient evidence to say Baudelaire had a profound knowledge of Chevreuls work (215-24). 5 Accounts of the importance of Delacroix and other painters to Baudelaire are numerous. See in particular, Ferran, 138-39; Armand Moss, Baudelaire et Delacroix; Jean Ziegler, 153-60. 6 Howells has gone the furthest in elaborating the convergence of Baudelaires and Chevreuls thinking, especially when it comes to issues of aesthetics defined as a


Jennifer Phillips

matter of sensation and perception. I do not, however, share his desire to mitigate the importance of Chevreuls color theory to Baudelaires, nor his understanding of Chevreuls scientific perspective as innocent of any metaphysical assumptions (199). 7 John Gage details the empirical approach of painters to color and to the effects of color juxtaposition (186, 191-92). 8 Gage explains that at the beginning of the nineteenth century there was a growing interest in color perception and subjective color phenomena as areas of scientific study, whereas Newton had avoided addressing the types of observations of color that would not fit into a quantitative science (191-204). 9 Chevreul, Considerations gnrales sur lanalyse organique, xiv-xv. 10 Howells provides a detailed account of Chevreuls concluding remarks, comparing his interest in perceptual psychology to Baudelaires subjectivism (190-97). 11 For a summary of the importance Baudelaire attached to the Salon de 1846, Pichois, ed., 1292-1295. 12 Kelley even suggests that the opposition between line and color is the structural basis of the Salon (47). The color-line polemic so shaped critical debate that it now informs the twentieth-century textbook version of art history. Hugh Honour, for example, points to nineteenth-century documents that posit the Romantic and NeoClassical styles, exemplified by Delacroix and Ingres, as opposites in terms of their use of color and line (47-55). 13 Roger Shattuck sees Baudelaire here as practicing imaginary ekphrasis, reading this passage as a prophetic description of color as it would come to be known in Impressionism and abstract art (464). 14 Baudelaires description is reminiscent of a convention in color theory that identifies color with elements. Leonardo da Vinci describes the link between the primary colors and the elements as follows: And white is given by light, without which no colour may be seen, yellow by earth, green by water, blue by air and red by fire, and black by darkness . . . (quoted by Martin Kemp, 268). 15 Here, Baudelaires color terminology may need clarification: Baudelaire uses the term ton to designate the various hues (i.e. green, blue, red, etc. . . .) and valeur to designate the tone or luminosity of a hue, its relationship to a scale of value from white to black. 16 Both Shattuck and Jean-Pierre Richard see the opening passage of De la couleur describing the metamorphosis of color as an illustration of correspondances. Richard uses the passage to illustrate the concept of transparence, a property that allows for the reciprocal exchange between objects by making them permeable to each other, opening them up to the play of associations that defines correspondances (111-18). For Shattuck, it is the use of terms such as harmonie and loi du mouvement ternel et universal that make this passage a manifesto on universal analogy (461).

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17 Cf. Car cette rgle nest pas applicable aux coloristes transcendants qui connaissent fond la science du contre-point (422). 18 Kelley provides detailed information on the relationship between Baudelaire and humanitarian and socialist art critics (8-17, 72-87); see also, David Kelly, Deux aspects du Salon de 1846 de Baudelaire: La ddicace aux bourgeois et la couleur, 33146. 19 Neil McWilliam illustrates the emphasis on form by Fourierist art critics (191-231). 20 Kelley argues that the social optimism Baudelaire expresses through color lacks a political basis. He limits the connection between Baudelaire and the socialist art critics because of Baudelaires irony and because of the importance Baudelaire accords modern civilization, whereas the socialists focus on landscape painting better suited their utopian fantasies which surpass contemporary reality (85-87).

works cited
Baudelaire, Charles. uvres compltes. Ed. Claude Pichois. Bibliothque de la Pliade. 2 vols. Paris: Gallimard, 1976. Chevreul, Michel-Eugne. De la loi du contraste simultan des couleurs, et de lassortiment des objets colors, considr daprs cette loi dans ses rapports avec la peinture, les tapisseries des Gobelins, les tapisseries de Beauvais pour meubles, les tapis, la mosaque, les vitraux colors, limpression des toffes, limprimerie, lenluminure, la dcoration des edifices, lhabilement et lhorticulture. 1839. Paris: Lonce Laget, 1969. . Considerations gnrales sur lanalyse organique. Paris: Levrault, 1824. Ferran, Andr. LEsthtique de Baudelaire. Paris: Hachette, 1933. Kelley, David. Deux aspects du Salon de 1846 de Baudelaire: la ddicace au bourgeois et la couleur. Forum for Modern Language Studies 5 (October 1969): 331-46. . Introduction. Le Salon de 1846. Charles Baudelaire. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1975. 1117. Gage, John. Colour and Culture. Singapore: Thames and Hudson, 1993. Honour, Hugh. Romanticism. New York: Harper and Row, 1979. Howells, Bernard. Baudelaire: Individualism, Dandyism, and the Philiosophy of History. Oxford: Legenda, 1996. Kemp, Martin. The Science of Art. New Haven: Yale UP, 1990. Laverdant, Dsir. De la mission de lart et du rle des artistes. La Phalange. Tome i. Paris: Bureau de la Phalange, 1845. McWilliam, Neil. Dreams of Happiness. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1993. Richard, Jean-Pierre. Posie et Profondeur. Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1955. Roque, Georges. Art et science de la couleur. Nmes: Jacqueline Chambon, 1997. Shattuck, Roger. Vibratory Organism: Seeing Nature Whole. Georgia Review 31 (Summer 1977): 454-70.


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Thor, Thophile. Salons de 1844, 1845, 1846, 1847, 1848. Paris: Jules Renouard, 1870. Ziegler, Jean. Emile Deroy et lesthtique de Baudelaire. Gazette des Beaux-Arts (May-June 1976): 153-60.

Nineteenth-Century French Studies 33, Nos. 3 & 4 SpringSummer 2005