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Capturing Modern Life

The Language of "Modern Life"

The work of Constantin Guys represents the language of modernity in visual terms, representing not only the fashions of his time but also the morals and ideology of the period. Guys' work provides an excellent cross-section of the dress of several social classes. Dress demonstrates the social ideologies that dominated the lives of women in Second Empire Paris in terms of class and gender: Guys' drawings define Baudelaire’s modern life in visual terms. The people in the images have an absolute and eternal quality as the images represent social types rather than specific individuals. However, the figures portrayed are entirely of their time, being visualised in the language of modern life in Paris during the 1860s and 1870s. Guys reveals the way in which these modern figures have applied a new form of social interaction, and given dress a specific linguistic role in terms of articulating the values of gender and class.

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