In a century best known for the masters of French Impressionism, Fantin-Latour worked quietly, relatively unnoticed, in a manner only recently popular. Committed to and proudest of his complex allegorical compositions, he is today, however, best known for his brilliant, lucid, and fortunately numerous flower-pieces. His present popularity has more than made up for the years of obscurity.Studying in Paris with his father (a competent portraitist) and Courbet, Fantin-Latour also did extensive copying at the Louvre (Chardin and Delacroix especially). In 1859 he went to London with Whistler and there found an appreciative audience which, while small, allowed him to continue painting. His foremost patrons were Mr. and Mrs. Edwin Edwards who not only purchased his best works but gave the necessary encouragement. In 1864 he exhibited two flower pieces at the Royal Academy and contemporary notices were universally favorable. From that point Fantin-Latour enjoyed a secure reputation.Living quietly in Paris, he painted virtually all his flowers indoors as opposed to his plein-air
friends, the Impressionists. The Roses1
of 1884 is a supreme example of Fantin-Latour's best production. The limpid colors of the flowers glow in a diffused light and the softness of the petals greet our eyes as their delicate odor would our nose. Even the detail of the loose leaves in the water at the bottom of the vase has not been overlooked. The humblest of subjects has been transformed into a thesis on beauty and simplicity. It was the artist's aim to convey the poetry of flowers, expressed directly and without sensationalism, to all who would take the time to look.Formerly in the Edwards' own collection, the Minneapolis painting exemplifies the style which has led others to claim that Fantin was the rightful successor to Chardin himself. This generous gift to the Institute's collection is a fitting and desired addition to the 19th-century galleries.Endnotes
Referenced Work of Art
- 69.70. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Patrick Butler. Oil on canvas, 15 1/8” x 12 15/16”.
- Henri Fantin-Latour. French (1836-1904). Roses. Oil on canvas, 15 1/8” x 12 15/16”. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Patrick Butler, 69.70.