Constantin Guys

  • 1802 - 1892
  • Artist
  • French

Baudelaire's call for an art of the present, an art of modern urban life, inspired painters like Édouard Manet. But for Baudelaire, the quintessential artist of contemporary Paris was Constantin Guys whom he obliquely referred to as "Monsieur G." Guys' watercolors and drawings of fashionable Parisians on display revealed for Baudelaire both the transitory and timeless aspects of modern life.

For many years, Guys lived in England producing journalistic sketches for The Illustrated London Newsand other early, illustrated magazines. He traveled widely--from Bulgaria to Egypt to Turkey--covering military campaigns and conflicts, and sent back sketches to England to be engraved. By the late 1850s, Guys had returned to Paris and his sketches of Parisian women--from ladies of high society to café-goers and prostitutes--brought him great acclaim. Baudelaire was his most fervent champion, but Guys' circle of admirers included the photographer Nadar, Eugène Delacroix and Manet. Guys socialized with the Impressionists, but shy of publicity, he maintained a low profile. On a night out in 1885, a horse-drawn carriage knocked down Guys. He survived for several years subsisting on the occasional sale of a drawing.