Bouquet de roses variées et oeillets
Oil on canvas: 11.3(h) x 11.4(w) in / 28.6(h) x 28.9(w) cm
Signed and dated lower left: Fantin 78
Grenoble 1836 - 1904 Buré
Bouquet de roses variées et œillets
Signed and dated lower left: Fantin 78 Oil on canvas: 11¼ x 11⅜ in /28.6 x 28.9 cm
Frame size: 20⅜ x 21¾ in / 51.8 x 55.2 cm
The Hallsborough Gallery, London EJ van Wisselingh & Co., Amsterdam Private collection, UK Morrison McChleary & Co., Glasgow, 16th April 1971, lot 51; The Lefevre Gallery, London;
private collection, USA
London, The Lefevre Gallery, XIX & XX century French Paintings, 1971, pp.1, 26-27, no.13, illus.
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. By the late 1870s, when Bouquet de roses variées et œillets was executed, Fantin’s flowerpieces had reached an exquisite pitch of refinement. Whereas in the previous decade he had painted complicated arrangements of flowers, fruit and objects against a dark background, by the 1870s Fantin had adopted his ‘signature’ light, neutral background and preferred simple vases with a few roses and one or two contrasting flowers, here the white dianthus.
Fantin was the supreme painter of roses, delighting in their complexity, their softness, the way they trapped light and shadow. The pale roses in this bouquet are framed by roses of a rich ruby red, which push the creamy white and pink flowers forward in the picture space. 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 roses are displayed in a simple glass vase, the clean lines of which focus attention on the flowers. The light from the studio window glowing through the water and the lines of the stems in the vase are painted with a masterly, unadorned directness that recalls the still lifes of Fantin’s friend Edouard Manet.
Fantin’s restrained 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. Edwin Edwards 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’. An idealist, shy and retiring, Fantin preferred to be alone in his studio with his beloved flowers, creating the harmonious and contemplative still lifes to which the eye returns with pleasure again and again.
Henri Fantin-Latour, A Basket of Roses, 1890
Oil on canvas: 48.9 x 60.3 cm
The National Gallery, London
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.
 Fantin-Latour 1982-3, op. cit., p.256.