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‘Desperation Befell Me’: The Elusive Painter Marlene Dumas on the Struggle to Paint Throughout a Year Marred by Tragedy

The South African artist has a poignant show on view at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris

At first glance, the 19th-century poet Charles Baudelaire and star contemporary painter Marlene Dumas might not seem to have a lot in common. But an unprecedented exhibition of Dumas’s work in Paris shows the fascinating overlaps between the two minds.

On view until January 30, 2022, the Musée d’Orsay is exhibiting 15 paintings by the acclaimed artist that draw on Baudelaire’s celebrated collection of writing called Paris Spleen, a 50-poem compilation from 1869 that captures raw life in the French city of his time. Dumas’s recent paintings of elusive figures poised on the brink of ambiguous actions and thoughts suit Baudelaire’s meditations on modern society and its paradoxical joys that are often mixed with lurking cruelty.