In his seminal essay “The Painter of Modern Life,” written in 1859–60 and first published in 1863, Baudelaire tries to imagine a new kind of artist: a modern artist for the modern world. Although he is inspired by a real-life French illustrator working in London named Monsieur Constantin Guys, he suppresses his name (ostensibly at the insistence of M. Guys) and calls him instead only by his initials “C.G.,” the effect of which is that Baudelaire often seems to be describing not a particular artist so much as a type of artist or a prototype. As he sets about describing “C.G.,” Baudelaire moves away from an older, received notion of the artist as a well-trained artisan with narrow, provincial interests toward an alternative notion of the artist as a “man of the world,” a seemingly new enough notion that Baudelaire is concerned to define it precisely:

When at last I ran him to earth, I saw at once that it was not precisely an artist but rather a man of the world with whom I had to do. I ask you to understand the word artist in a very restricted sense and man of the world in a very broad one. By the second I mean a man of the whole world, a man who understands the world and the mysterious and lawful reasons for all its uses; by the first, a specialist, a man wedded to his palette like the serf to the soil. Monsieur G. does not like to be called an artist. Is he perhaps not a little right? His interest is the whole world; he wants to know and understand and appreciate everything that happens on the surface of our globe.

(6–7, emphasis in original)