This painting will be included in the forthcoming Fantin-Latour catalogue raisonné being prepared by Galerie Brame & Lorenceau.
Radiating a contemplative stillness and calm, Fantin-Latour's Fleurs (Hortensias, giroflées, deux pots de pensées) was painted in 1879, which is often considered the vintage pinnacle for his pictures of flowers. The gentle, scumbled light that surrounds the flowers that have been so painstakingly rendered in this still life have a Chardin-like atmosphere that is engaging and absorbing, well meriting the words of Emile Zola, written on the occasion of the Salon the following year: 'The canvases of M. Fantin-Latour do not assault your eyes, they do not leap at you from the walls. They must be looked at for a length of time in order to penetrate them, and their conscientiousness, their simple truth you take these in entirely, and then you return' (E. Zola, quoted in E. Lucie-Smith, Fantin-Latour, London, 1977, p. 37).
It was only three years earlier that Fantin-Latour had married his fellow painter Victoria Dubourg, who had a family property at Buré in Lower Normandy. It was there that Fantin-Latour would retire during the summer, escaping the heat and bustle of the French capital, and it was there that he executed many of his flower paintings, using specimens from the prevalent gardens, increasingly exploring with palpable fascination a theme and subject that had already gained a central position in his oeuvre. Importantly, in creating pictures such as Fleurs (Hortensias, giroflées, deux pots de pensées), he showed that he was looking not only to the heritage of the flower as a theme for a still life, but also to the advances made by some of his friends and colleagues in the Parisian art scene of the time. In this work, the composition is deliberately lent a spontaneity by the complex framing of the plants, which are cropped in the foreground, recalling the photographic advances that were so key to some of the freshness and vivacity of the Impressionists during the same period.
Fleurs (Hortensias, giroflées, deux pots de pensées) was first owned by Mrs. Edwin Edwards, a friend of Fantin-Latour, who herself became an active proponent of his work in England. So successful was she at advocating his flower pictures, in particular, that the strong resulting sales of this motif in England left few to remain in France. Mrs. Edwards was the wife of a former lawyer, a King's Proctor who had turned to painting. The friendship between Fantin-Latour and the Edwards family was immortalised in the Frenchman's celebrated portrait of the couple, painted four years earlier, which now hangs in the National Gallery, London.