Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: Tulips, Camellias and Hyacinths, 1864

Tulips Camillias and Hyacinths
Henri Fantin-Latour, 1864
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This intriguing still life of delicate flowers (tulips, camellias and hyacinths) is the work of Henri Fantin-Latour (1836-1904). Fantin-Latour was born in Grenoble where he trained with his father, the celrbated Jean-Théodore Fantin-Latour (1805-75). Later, the promising young painter would study with Horace Lecocq de Boisbaudran at the Petite Ecole de Dessin in Paris from 1850 to 1856. 

After continually ompressing his tutors, Fantin-Latoure joined Gustave Courbet's studio as a pupil, working mostly on portraiture. However, portraits weren’t the artist’s passion and Fantin-Latour soon began to focus on floral paintings and the still lifes for which he is now most recognized.

British collectors were especially attracted to the painter’s floral scenes. Fantin-Latour exhibited at the Royal Academy in London starting in 1862 onwards, and enjoyed the patronage of James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903), whom he met in 1858.

This painting from 1864 is the perfect example of Fantin-Latour's early floral work. Throughout his life, Fantin-Latour created over five hundred floral compositions, many showing unusual combinations of flowers as evidenced by this bouquet of tulips, camellias, hyacinths, holly hocks and assorted wild flowers. The artist’s work is defined by his attention-getting combination of rich textures and tones which are set against a plain dark background. His paintings are categorized as examples of “new naturalism”—a style which developed in French art in the second half of the Nineteenth Century. New naturalism would prove to be the precursor of Impressionism.

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