[Part three of "Ruskin and Baudelaire on Art and Artist," which originally appeared in the University of Toronto Quarterly, 37 (1968): 295-308. indicates linked materials not in the original print version.]
erhaps the most interesting aspect of Ruskin's and Baudelaire's conception of the ideal artist appears when they qualify the usual romantic notion of the creator as an emotional man. We have seen that they accept the characteristic description of the artist-poet as the man of feeling who creates his art by expressing his sentiments and imaginings; but at the same time that they defend the sincere feelings and praise the intense passion of their favourite painters, these critics distrust emotion itself. Ruskin's famous definition of the Pathetic Fallacy explains his reason for fearing the effects of emotion on art: "All violent feelings have the same effect. They produce in us a falseness in all our impressions of extemal things, which I would generally characterize as the 'pathetic fallacy'" (5.205). Emotion distorts, emotion limits the art based on it to a narrow subjectivity, and yet the dilemma which both Ruskin and Baudelaire must face in their critical theory is that, although they are aware of the difficulties of basing art on emotion, they hold, as a first principle, that feelings are at the centre of artistic creation.
Both men independently arrive at the same solution: they reshape previous conceptions of the romantic poet, positing an ideal artist-poet who is paradoxically both sensitive and impassive, deeply moved and yet serene. For Baudelaire, Eugene Delacroix is the perfect example of this ideal [300/301]:
Delacroix était passionnément amoureux de la passion, et froidement déterminé à chercher les moyens d'exprimer la passion de la manière la plus visible. Dans ce double caractère, nous trouvons, disons-le en passant, les deux signes qui marquent les plus solides génies, génies extrêmes qui ne sont guère faits pour plaire aux âmes timorées, faciles à satisfaire, et qui trouvent une nourriture suffisante dans les oeuvres lâches, molles, imparfaites. Une passion immense, doublée d'une volonté formidable, tel était l'homme. 
Ruskin's ideal creator also possesses "ce double caractère": "[T]he greatness of a poet depends upon the two faculties, acuteness of feeling, and command of it. A poet is great, first in proportion to the strength of his passion, and then, that passion being granted, in proportion to his government of it" (5.215). Ruskin also sees that such a perfect artist will hardly please "ames timorées":
He is tender to impression at the surface, like a rock with deep moss upon it; but there is too much mass of him to be moved. The smaller man, with the same degree of sensibility, is at once carried off his feet . . .; he is gay or enthusiastic, melancholy or passionate, as things come and go to him. Therefore, the high creative poet might even be thought, to a great extent, impassive (as shallow people think Dante stern), receiving indeed all feelings to the full, but having a great centre of reflection and knowledge in which he stands serene, and watches the feeling, as it were, from afar off. [5.210]
Ruskin, like Baudelaire, delights in picturing the artist whose greatest power is over himself, and throughout his works he repeatedly draws the portrait of the ideal artist-poet. In the fifth and final volume of Modern Painters, for example, he again describes the perfect artist-poet in terms that are strikingly similar to Baudelaire's portrayal of Delacroix as the man "passionnément amouleux de la passion et froidement déterminé a chercher les moyens d'exprimer la passion":
[A] painter needs to be as cool as a general; and as little moved or subdued by his sense of pleasure, as a soldier by the sense of pain. Nothing good can be done without intense feeling; but it must be feeling so crushed, that the work is set about with mechanical steadiness, absolutely untroubled, as a surgeon. . . . Until the feelings can give strength enough to the will to enable it to conquer them, they are not strong enough.
The artist must feel strongly enough to conquer his feeling: such is their solution. And if we characterize romantic critical theory as that which is primarily concerned with the nature of the artist, and with his means of creation, then it follows that, by creating a new ideal of the artist-poet, Ruskin and Baudelaire attempt to solve the difficulties of a romantic view of art in a characteristically romantic manner. [302/303]
Last modified 2000