In “The Painter of Modern Life,” Baudelaire is the first to define Modernism and does so as a conjunction of the eternal and the ephemeral. To find that element of the eternal in the ephemeral which Baudelaire saw as embodying modernity, he turns to an emphasis on the particular form of the living art/art as living of the Dandy. The Dandy is the non-separation of art and life in the conceiving of one’s existence as Performance Art. The Dandy becomes not an expression of Romantic personality and individuality, but a form of becoming an animated Other, an impersonator going about performing the actions of a concept, rather than producing the objects of a conception. ( David Baptiste-Chirot)
This stylized impersonating, non-producing figure begins to appear dramatically” in the works of Wilde and Jarry and in many ways in the “life and works” of a Félix Fénéon, who “creates at a distance” via anonymous newspaper faits divers -discovered to be his and republished posthumously as “Nouvelles en trois lignes” (News/Novellas in Three Lines),- pseudonymous articles in differing registers of language, working class argot, standardized French, in Anarchist and mainstream journals, unsigned translations, and the barely noted in their own pages of his editing of journals featuring the early efforts of rising stars of French literature. Quitting his camouflaged and concealed writing activities, Fénéon works the rest of his life as a seller in an art gallery.
—Not finding his daughter of 19 austere enough, the Saint-Etienne jewler Jallat killed her. He still, it is true, has eleven other children.
—”What! all those children perched on my wall?” With eight shots, Mr. Olive, a Toulon property-owner made them scramble down, covered with blood.
—Marie Jandeau, a handsome girl well known to many gentlemen of Toulon, suffocated in her room last night, on purpose.
—A Nancy dishwasher, Vital Frerotte, recently returned from Lourdes forever cured of tuberculosis, died, on Sunday, by mistake.
—Miss Verbeau did manage to hit Marie Champion, in the breast, but she burned her own eye, for a bowl of vitriol is not an accurate weapon.
—At skittles apoplexy felled Mr. Andre, 75, of Levallois. While his bowl was still rolling, he ceased to be.
In later life Fénéon sold paintings at the Bernheim-Jeune gallery and for a while ran his own publishing house. In response to a proposal to publish a collection of his own work, he remarked, “I aspire only to silence.”
Decades before the rise of “flash fiction,” Félix Fénéon mastered the art of flash nonfiction in the 1,220 short items he wrote for a Paris newspaper in 1906. Collected and published in book form after his death, Fénéon’s miniature masterpieces of irony and suspense are a tour de force of Pointillist prose…
… Meanwhile, the social tensions implicit in Georges Seurat’s drawings intensified, in the streets of Paris, amid a wave of violent strikes and bombings. In 1894, Félix Fénéon was arrested by the Parisian police for possession of bomb-making materials, including 11 detonators, and he translated Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey in his jail cell while awaiting trial.Cleared of all charges—the jury fell for his charm and his absurd claim that his father had found the explosives in the street—he was fired from the War Office and worked for newspapers instead. ….
For much of 1906, Fénéon filled the columns of Le Matin with brilliant miniature news stories like this: “On the bowling lawn a stroke leveled M. André, 75, of Levallois. While his ball was still rolling he was no more.” These fragmented “novels in three lines,” according to Luc Sante, enlisted “the detachment and objectivity of science” and “partook of the same essence as the pointillists’ adamantine dots.” At the time of the trial, Symbolist poet Stéphane Mallarmé told the press that Fénéon’s real detonators were his words.
—Scatching it with a hair-triggered revolver, Mr. Ed… B… removed the end of his nose, in the Vivienne police station.
Falling from a scaffolding at the same time as Mr.Dury, stone-mason, of Marseille, a stone crushed his skull.
—Louis Lamarre had neither work nor lodging; but he did have a few coppers. he bought a quart of kerosene from a grocer in Saint Denis, and drank it.
—A madwoman of Puechabon (Herault), Mrs. Bautiol, nee Herail, used a club to awaken her parents-in-law.
—At finding her son Hyacinth, 69, hanged, Mrs. Ranvier, of Bussy-Saint-Georges, was so depressed she couldn’t cut the rope.
—In Essoyes (Aube), Bernard, 25, bludeoned Mr. Dufert, who is 89, and stabbed his wife. He was jealous.
—In Brest, thanks to a smoker’s carelessness, Miss Ledru, all done up in tulle, was badly burned on thighs and breasts.
—In Djiajelli, a thirteen-year-old virgin, propositioned by a lewd rake of ten, did him in with three knife-blows.
The actual “works” of Fénéon, then, are not written objects per se, but anonymous actions, ephemeral pseudonymous “appearances in print,” and the works of others which he affects a passage for in his editorship and translations, in his promoting and selling the art works of others. This “accumulation” which one finds “at a distance” in time as his “complete works,” is often unobserved and unknown to his contemporaries, who know of him primarily via his “way of acting,” his manner of dressing, his speech mannerisms, and as the public triptych of images of him existing as a painted portrait by Signac, a Dandy-pose photo and a mug shot taken when tried as part of an Anarchist “conspiracy.” Fénéon’s “identity as a writer” does not exist as “an author,” but as a series of “performances,” “appearances” and “influences,” many of them “unrecognized” and “unattributed.”
A dozen hawkers who had been announcing news of a nonexistent anarchist bombing at the Madeleine have been arrested.
A certain madwoman arrested downtown falsely claimed to be nurse Elise Bachmann. The latter is perfectly sane.
On Place du Pantheon, a heated group of voters attempted to roast an effigy of M. Auffray, the losing candidate. They were dispersed.
Arrested in Saint-Germain for petty theft, Joël Guilbert drank sublimate. He was detoxified, but died yesterday of delirium tremens.
The photographer Joachim Berthoud could not get over the death of his wife. He killed himself in Fontanay-sous-Bois.
Reverend Andrieux, of Roannes, near Aurillac, whom a pitiless husband perforated Wednesday with two rifle shots, died last night.
*To anarchist Felix Feneon charged with illegally carying a firearm, the judge said:
“You know you had on you everything you need to commit a murder?”
“Yes, but I also had on me everything I needed to commit a rape.”
Fénéon’s love for art was absolute, and even formed his political tastes. The failure by the “bourgeois” society to understand the real artists, its admiration with commonplace hacks, ‘sugary masters of schools and academies’, and its accusation of new and fresh trends — all this was enough for Fénéon to justify the destruction of that society. Fénéon approved of Anarchistic propaganda, even its extreme forms, which called for action using bombs.
Some works by Impressionists hang on the walls of his study in the Ministry of Defense. Later, when Anarchists’ terrorist attacks shocked France, some explosives would be found in the same study.
Strange as it might seem to us now, many artists, including Paul Signac, Camille Pissarro and Lucien Pissarro, Maximilien Luce, Théo van Rysselberghe, and others not only justified and glorified Anarchists, but supported them financially.
Signac wrote that once Fénéon analyzed the logic of Anarchists’ attacks: the one at the stock exchange was against the bourgeoisie, others were against the army, deputies, representatives of power, one more seemed most strange and illogical, because it involved innocent civilians. Fénéon denoted the last attack as an act against electors. He considered that the terrorist act against electors was the most ‘anarchistic’ because electors were more guilty than the elected, who only fulfill the electors’ will.