Bowes Museum Presents the Still Life Paintings of Henri Fantin-Latour & the Impressionists

. April 17, 2011 . 0 Comments

The exhibition Painting Flowers: Fantin-Latour & the Impressionists, which opens at the Barnard Castle treasure house on Saturday 16 April, will showcase around 30 of his works, alongside paintings by Renoir, Courbet, and Fantin-Latour’s wife Victoria Dubourg, among others.

“He was very good friends with Manet, finally serving as a pallbearer at his funeral”, said the Museum’s Keeper of Fine Art, Emma House, who is curating the exhibition. “In fact, he was instrumental in the French nation buying Olympia, one of Manet’s most famous works.”

From the 1860s, Fantin-Latour began developing his powers of observation, experimenting with colour, texture, form and composition in his still life paintings. Yet while still life painting grew in popularity among artists of the period, it was strongly resisted by the establishment.

Invited to London by Whistler, Fantin-Latour was introduced to Edwin Edwards and his wife, Ruth, who bought many of his still life paintings in the years that followed. They trumpeted his work among their circle and helped him develop a rich base of patrons in England, eventually acting as his agents.

“There was a kind of snobbery about still life, which was seen as being purely decorative rather than fine art,” said Ms House. “Whereas England’s nouveau riche were happy to have pleasant pictures to decorate their homes, so in that respect Fantin-Latour was very much in the right place at the right time.

“It’s rather ironic therefore that the Museum’s founders, John & Joséphine Bowes, bought Fruit and Flowers, one the very few of his still life paintings to be sold in France, and that it should also end up in England,” she added.

In 1876 Fantin-Latour and his wife spent their first summer at Buré in France, a house inherited from her uncle. The provincial garden there provided an abundance of blooms from which both artists were inspired to create endless floral compositions.

The garden at Buré housed a wide range of 19th Century rose varieties such as Maréchal Niel, Gloire-de-Dijon and Céline Forestier as well as more established varieties like Félicité et Perpétue.

The expansion of mail order horticulture in France during that time offered the domestic gardener access to a growing selection of plants, and provided Fantin-Latour with an ever increasing choice of subject matter. Botanist David Ingram explores his work, identifying many of the new and exciting varieties and hybrids that were available to the artist.

Fantin-Latour continued to refine his skills in representing textures and the tactile qualities of flowers, the delicate nature of their blooms and the structure of their stems. So admired did he become for his ability as a painter of roses that a fragrant pink Centifolia rose was named in tribute to him.

Image: Henri Fantin-Latour

Category: Fine Art

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