Rethinking the Modern Dandy: Yves Klein by Yves Klein
The dandy is an archetype of modern male identity. He is modern because his greatest achievement is selfhood; he is male in a sense that harkens back to the ancient realm of the Hellenes; and he is archetype because the dandy has proven to be resilient, paradoxical, fascinating and repellent. Dominant thought on the history of the dandy has him present in the twentieth century but eclipsed by the female performer. Recent scholarship discusses him as international, a man of the Ages, and as shaman. But nowhere in the discourse is the male performance artist of avant-garde art who, however temporarily, embraced the principles of modern dandyism: as hero, as artist, and as creator and master of self. In particular, one figure is definitive of this neglected aspect of modern art: the French avant-garde artist, Yves Klein. Beyond his innovative methods of painting and his controversial performance art, Klein was also a dandy. He cultivated an identity characterized by anachronistic modes of dress, and he rendered the camera his modern-day mirror. Klein's dandyism goes beyond the sartorial and narcissistic: he created himself as a "modern" dandy - the self made man who - from the example of Beau Brummell to the essays of Barbey D'Aurevilly and Camus - was a revolutionary and rebel. As such, Yves Klein imploded his life with his art. Klein's example challenges the established scholarship on the dandy and this aspect of his work presages postmodern trends in visual art. My topic investigates the importance of dandyism in the art and life of Yves Klein, its importance in modern performance art, and as a prototype for modern male identity.
Keywords: Gender, Sexuality, Dandyism, Photography, Mass Media
Ms. Linda R. James
Ph.D. Candidate/Senior Lecturer, Art History/Fine Arts, University of Wisconsin-Madison/University of Wisconsin-Platteville