Oil on canvas: 20(h) x 24.6(w) in /
50.8(h) x 62.5(w) cm
Signed and dated lower left: Fantin . 89
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Grenoble 1836 – 1904 Buré
Signed and dated lower left: Fantin . 89 Oil on canvas: 20 x 24 ⅝ in / 50.8 x 62.5 cm
Mrs Edwin Edwards, London
Sir Harry Veitch (1840-1924), by whom bequeathed to
The Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter
Christie’s London, 22nd October 1954, lot 63; from where acquired by
The Fine Art Society Ltd., London
Private collection, UK
London, Royal Academy, 1890, no.651 (Roses)
Exeter, Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Veitch Bequest, 1924, no.62
Grenoble, Musée Bibliothèque de Grenoble, Centenaire de Henri Fantin-Latour, August-October 1936, no.152
Mme Fantin-Latour, Catalogue de l’oeuvre complet de Fantin-Latour, 1849-1904, Paris 1911, p.145, no.1376
E Hardouin-Fugier and E Grafe, French Flower Painters of the 19th Century: a Dictionary, Ghent 1989, p.198, no.1,376 (Roses dans une bassine)
To be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the paintings and pastels of Henri Fantin-Latour currently being prepared by Galerie Brame & Lorenceau
Henri Fantin-Latour’s career had three main elements: his sensitive portraits of the 1860s and 70s, the subject pictures (often based on themes from Wagner) from the end of his career, and the still lifes that he painted from the 1860s to the 1890s.
Fantin was the supreme painter of roses, delighting in their complexity, their softness, the way they trapped light and shadow. Supremely disciplined and devoted to his calling, Fantin trod a delicate line between realistic description and the sensuous quality of paint: Douglas Druick comments that ‘he remains true to his subject and true to his art, never lapsing into mere botanic illustration’. The artist-dandy Jacques-Emile Blanche captured the mystery and poetry of Fantin’s flowerpieces when he wrote: ‘it is in his roses that Fantin has no equal. The rose – so complicated in its design, contours, and colour, in its rolls and curls, now fluted like the decoration of a fashionable hat, round and smooth, now like a button or a woman’s breast – no-one understood them better than Fantin. He confers a kind of nobility on the rose’.
Roses, painted in 1889, is an outstanding example of the flowerpieces of Fantin’s maturity. He keeps the composition and the setting simple, placing the flowers in a restrained, shadowed container on a table against a textured, featureless background of soft beige. The dramatic focus is on a loose oval bouquet of pastel blooms, with more flowers spilling into the right foreground, culminating in a perfect, creamy-yellow rose face-on, close to the spectator. The white, cream, buttermilk and cuisse de nymph émue hues are offset by the shiny, dark-emerald rose leaves and by a deep burgundy rose half-hidden in the shadows.
Fantin’s bouquets of roses were especially popular in England, which he had first visited in 1859 after meeting Whistler in Paris. French rose breeders were crucial to the development of modern roses, but in the later nineteenth century they were surpassed by the British; roses were an essential element of formal Victorian gardens. It is particularly appropriate, therefore, that this painting was in the collection of a prominent English horticulturalist, Sir Harry Veitch (1840-1924). First, though, it passed through the hands of Mrs Edwin Edwards. The lawyer Edwin Edwards (1823-1879) and his wife Ruth, music lovers like Fantin, became his agents in England, creating a steady market for his work which offset the lukewarm response of the French critics and the frustrations of making commissioned portraits. Fantin wrote to his friend Scholderer in 1871: ‘I am able to live quietly….doing what I please, thanks to Edwards’. After her husband’s death in 1879, the very capable Ruth Edwards continued to promote Fantin’s work in Britain, and Roses was shown at the Royal Academy in 1890.
Sir Harry Veitch was born in Exeter and joined the family nursery, James Veitch & Sons of Kings Road, Chelsea, in 1858. Under his direction it became one of the foremost nurseries in Europe. Veitch sent plant hunters around the world in search of new species, and had several plants named after him, including a brilliant scarlet orchid found in Peru, Masdevallia veitchiana. In 1902 he laid out the gardens of Ascott House for Leopold de Rothschild. In 1912 he was instrumental in arranging for the Royal Horticultural Society’s annual show to take place at the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, an event that continues as the famed Chelsea Flower Show. Veitch was Knighted the same year, the first horticulturalist to receive this honour. Sir Harry and his wife built up a fine collection of paintings and works of art at their homes in Kensington and East Burnham Park, Bucks. On his death in 1924 Sir Harry left the collection to the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter. The Fantin-Latour was deaccessioned from the museum in 1954 and for the last half century has been in a private UK collection.
Grenoble 1836 – 1904 Buré
Henri Fantin-Latour painted sensitive portraits and subject pictures, but is chiefly renowned today for his outstanding flower still lifes, which were especially popular in England and America. He was born in Grenoble in 1836, the son of the portrait painter Jean-Théodore Fantin-Latour and his Russian wife Helène de Naidenoff. Henri studied with his father, with Lecoq de Boisbaudran, and in Courbet’s studio in 1861. He copied works in the Louvre, gaining a lifelong respect for the European Old Master tradition, especially Titian’s use of colour and Chardin’s painterly still-lifes. Fantin met Manet in 1857 and exhibited at the 1863 Salon des Refusés, but eschewed the first Impressionist exhibition of 1874, preferring the Salon, where he exhibited from 1861 to 1899. Although on good terms with the Impressionists, he was wary of the excesses of the avant-garde.
In 1858 Fantin encountered Whistler and subsequently made four trips to England. On his second visit, in 1861, he was taught to etch by Whistler’s brother-in-law Seymour Haden and met Ruth and Edwin Edwards, who were to become Fantin’s agents in England, building up a market for his still-lifes in that country. Fantin executed a series of incisive self-portraits in the second half of the 1850s. From 1864 he produced a series of group portraits which serve as Fantin’s ‘professions of faith’ in contemporary art and culture. They depict writers and artists in works such as Studio in the Batignolles (Musée d’Orsay, Paris), shown at the Salon in 1870, which brings together Zola, Monet and Renoir in the studio of Manet.
Fantin’s flower still lifes combined harmony of composition and acute observation of the structure of plants with rich, painterly brushwork. He preferred to paint his blooms in the studio against a plain background which emphasized their tranquil, poetic beauty. Jacques-Emile Blanche wrote: ‘Fantin studied each flower, each petal, its grain, its tissue, as if it were a human face’. In 1876 he married his pupil Victoria Dubourg (1840-1926). The couple spent their summers at Victoria’s family home at Buré in Normandy, where the abundant garden inspired Fantin to more informal and lavish still lifes.
A lifelong music lover (his wife was a fine musician), Fantin was inspired by Berlioz and Wagner, whose lush Romanticism and complex, mythic themes provided subjects for the Symbolist aspect of his art. His lithographs of scenes from The Ring were reproduced in Adolphe Jullien’s biography Richard Wagner (1888). Henri Fantin-Latour died at Buré in 1904.
 Paris, Grand Palais/Ottawa, National Gallery of Canada/San Francisco, California Palace of the Legion of Honor, Fantin-Latour, 1982-3, exh. cat. by Douglas Druick and Michel Hoog, p.267.
 Quoted in Ottawa, National Gallery of Canada, Fantin-Latour, 1983, pp.265-66.
 Fantin-Latour 1982-3, op. cit., p.256.