How does Timothy Raser interpret Baudelaire's concept of "modernity" and his idea of "the painter of modern life"?

Timothy Raser argues that Baudelaire failed to appreciate the impact of photography on modern art. This meant that he championed Constantin Guys, a minor artist whose pictures were highly realistic, instead of realizing that this style of painting was soon to be eclipsed by photography as a modern art form.

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In his 2015 work, Baudelaire and Photography: Finding the Painter of Modern Life, Timothy Raser argues that Baudelaire's championship of Constantin Guys is linked to his dismissive attitude towards photography. Baudelaire, like many art critics and artists in the middle of the nineteenth century, did not regard photography as an art, since it merely reproduced whatever was put in front of the camera. However, a very similar point was made about Constantin Guys's painting by his detractors. Guys was a good draughtsman, but he was not an artist, because he merely reproduced the scenes in front of him in realistic detail.

Raser argues that, in looking for a new aesthetic to express modernity, Baudelaire was led astray, prizing mere novelty above beauty. Baudelaire is more concerned about the modernity of the subject than any new techniques in art. In "The Painter of Modern Life," he says that it is perfectly in order for a modern painter to use the style of the old masters, so long as he does so in pictures of the Parisian crowd. This is why he undervalues Impressionism and overstates the brilliance of Constantin Guys's more realistic style. In Raser's view, this style of treating a subject was actually more suited to photography and, if Baudelaire had realized what a major art form photography was to be, he would have sought it there rather than in the second-rate paintings of Constantin Guys.

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