Henri Fantin-Latour (French, 1836–1904) was a painter and printmaker associated with the Impressionist movement, and best known for his portraits of Parisian cultural figures and still-lifes. From 1850 to 1856, he studied at the Petite École de Dessin by copying Italian Old Masters, such as Titian (Italian, c.1485–1576)and Paolo Veronese (Italian, 1528–1588). In his early work, Woman Reading (1861), Fantin-Latour depicts his subject with the tranquility and absorption found in Dutch painting, particularly the work of Jean Baptiste Siméon Chardin (French, 1699–1779). This rigidity and aloofness is also evident in Fantin-Latour’s group portraits of avant-garde painters and writers, such as Édouard Manet (French, 1832–1883) and Charles Baudelaire (French, 1821-1867) in Homage to Delacroix (1864), and Emile Zola (French, 1840–1902), Claude Monet (French, 1840-1926), and Pierre-Auguste Renoir (French, 1841-1919) in Studio in the Batignolles (1864). Although he exhibited regularly alongside the Impressionists at the Salon des Refusés, Fantin-Latour found commercial success in painting still-lifes of flowers, which were in demand from collectors in England. In work such as Flowers and Fruit (1865), the subtle lighting and triangular composition follows the legacy of Chardin’s still-lifes. A recent exhibition of his flower paintings was held at the Bowes Museum in England in 2011. His work is currently held in museum collections such as the Musuem of Fine Arts in Boston, the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, and the Musée d'Orsay in Paris.

Timeline

Born in Grenoble in 1836 Henri Fantin-Latour was the son of the portrait painter, Théodore Fantin-Latour. The family moved to Paris in 1841 and at the age of 10 Fantin began to study painting with his father. In 1850 he entered the studio of Lecoq de Boisbaudran who was an innovative and highly revered teacher who was known for his system of training visual memory, in 1854 he enroled in the Ecole des Beaux Arts and he later also briefly studied under Gustave Courbet in 1861. During his studies Fantin developed an appreciation for the Italian masters, in particular Titian and Veronese, and spent much of his time copying works in the Louvre, which he sold mostly to American and English clients. Whilst painting in the Louvre in 1857 he met Edouard Manet with whom he forged a lasting friendship, and in 1858 he also met Whistler and his future wife, Victoria Dubourg.
In 1861 Fantin-Latour exhibited for the first time at the Paris Salon having been refused entry in 1859 along with his friends Manet and Whistler, he continued to contribute works to the Salon almost annually up until 1876 but also took part in the first Salon des Refusés in 1863.
Like his father Henri Fantin-Latour became a respected portrait painter and in the 1860s produced some of the most impressive and important works documenting his friendships with some of the most avant-garde artists, poets and musicians of the period. Painted in 1894 Homage to Delacroix (Musée d’Orsay, Paris) shows Fantin with Baudelaire, Manet, Whistler and others grouped around a portrait of Delacroix and A studio at Batignolles, 1870 (Musée d’Orsay, Paris) depicts a group of aritists including Fantin, Monet and Renoir watching Monet paint in his studio. Despite his association with the most forward thinking artists of the age Fantin-Latour remained, at heart, a traditionalist, he rarely painted outside preferring to remain in his studio where he produced his portraits, still lifes and romantice, imaginative scenes from the operas of Wagner, Schumann and Berlioz which were gave him most pleasure.
Fantin is, however, best known for his exquisite and elegant still life paintings of flowers. In 1859, Fantin-Latour was encouraged by Whistler to visit him in England where was introduced to the amateur artist Edwin Edwards and his wife, Ruth, who were to become a life-long friends and patrons. In England, encouraged by Edwards, he became particularly popular for flower paintings which were considered the height of fashion and were greatly admired for the restraint and elegance of their colour and composition. He visited England frequently and exhibited at the Royal Academy in London regularly between 1862 and 1900 which brought his work to even greater prominence.
Fantin’s delicate, graceful and luxurious flowers pieces are considered to be amongst the most impressive and sought after still life paintings of the 19th Century and his works can be found in some of the most important private and public collections throughout the world.

Exhibitions