Fleurs, Chrysanthèmes
(Henri Fantin-Latour)


The 1870s marked a period of change in Henri Fantin-Latour’s work. While Fantin had been a friend and admirer of Whistler in his youth, he found that he did not understand the latter’s work of the early-1870s and by the mid-1870s he was even critical of Manet, whom he had hitherto considered the leading contemporary painter. He now deliberately disassociated himself from the leaders of what was to be called impressionism, considering that he was himself destined to continue the achievements of Delacroix, Courbet and Millet.

1876 is a particularly important year in Fantin’s career, as it marked the completion of The Commemoration, (Grenoble, Musée de peinture et de sculpture), a work marking his personal homage to music and a direct tribute to Berlioz, which he had first conceived in 1873. In the mid 1870s Fantin also began to experiment more with the art of lithography, not only in the hope of disseminating his compositions more widely, but also to utilize in illustrating sheet music. Despite his continued interest in large allegorical works and portraiture, however, he concentrated primarily on floral still-lifes during the 1870s and 80s. Earlier in the decade he had formed an important connection with England, through the agency of the dealer Edwin Edwards. As in so many artist-dealer relationships the friendship between Fantin and Edwards was sometimes marked by disagreement, but nonetheless the market the latter established for Fantin’s still-lifes among English collectors enabled the artist to earn a comfortable living. Fantin had hoped to establish a similar relationship with Durand-Ruel, but a large exhibition put on by the latter in his Paris gallery in 1872 was not a commercial success. Fantin painted flowers because, as he wrote in 1879 “one must take advantage of the moment, and this year I find the flowers more beautiful than ever.” He enjoyed doing so, even though he had been forced, by the constraints imposed by the collectors his paintings, to abandon what he described as “still lifes for painters;” he continued to concentrate on still-lifes until the late 1880s, when he grew “very tired” of such subjects.

The critic Astruc, in a review of the 1870 Salon, praised Fantin for his “absolute sincerity of observation”, writing that when painting flowers Fantin “sculpts, draws, models, and thoroughly studies the values, the formations of things, like a true mathematician.” This work is one of many in which the artist, perhaps following the example of Delacroix, excluded any indication of a container from the composition. In Chrysanthemums, a group of the smaller, wild flowers, each bloom is studied individually, enabling the artist to “capture the physiognomy of the flower he is copying; it is that particular flower, and not another on the same stem: he draws and constructs the flower, and does not satisfy himself with giving an impression of it through brightly, cleverly juxtaposed splashes of color ” (the painter Jacques Emile Blanche, Revue de Paris, 1906, p. 312). Fantin, while giving careful attention to each flower, never lapsed into purely botanical illustration and managed to convey a sense of volume, light and space that elevated the art of Still Life to heights it had not enjoyed since the time of Chardin.

16 ½ x 18 ½ ins. 42 x 47 cm.
Oil on canvas

Charles E. Lees, Esq, by 1911; Arthur Tooth & Sons, London; Williams & Sons, London; 1962 Private Collection, Vienna.


Madame Fantin-Latour, Catalogue de l’Oeuvre Complète de Henri Fantin-
Latour, Floury, Paris 1911, no. 785, p. 85. This painting shall be included in the forthcoming Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings and Patels by Henri Fantin-Latour being prepared by Galerie Brame & Lorenceau.

Where is It?
sold at auction 2007 june
Historical Period
Realism to Impressionism - 1840-1900
Still Life - Floral
2001-European Paintings-From 1600-1917.
Baroque, Rococo, Romanticism, Realism, Futurism.

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Price band
Sold or not available