Henri Fantin-Latour (1836-1904)
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Henri Fantin-Latour (1836-1904)

Roses dans un verre droit

Henri Fantin-Latour (1836-1904)
Roses dans un verre droit
signed and dated 'Fantin. 82' (lower left)
oil on canvas
14 7/8 x 13 in. (37.8 x 33 cm.)
Painted in 1882
John Levy Galleries, New York.
M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., New York (acquired from the above, January 1950).
Acquired from the above by the late owners, December 1950.
Mme Fantin-Latour, Catalogue de l'oeuvre complet de Fantin-Latour, Paris, 1911, p. 111, no. 1090 (with incorrect dimensions).
M. Potter et al., The David and Peggy Rockefeller Collection: European Works of Art, New York, 1984, vol. I, p. 123, no. 28 (illustrated in color).
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Lot Essay

Brame et Lorenceau will include this work in their forthcoming Fantin-Latour catalogue raisonné des peintures et pastels.

While Fantin-Latour painted all varieties of flowers, often mixing them in a single composition, his sensuous, sensitive treatment of roses was especially prized and significantly contributed to his fame as the leading painter of floral still-lifes during the late 19th century. Roses were widely popular in Victorian England, where Fantin developed the most steady and reliable market for his flower paintings. England surpassed France to become the world’s leader in rose cultivation; a rosarium constructed in Abner Park Cemetery, northeast London, in 1840, possessed a collection numbering more than a thousand cultivars, varieties, and species.
The rose is the supreme test of a flower painter’s skill. The artist must impart a convincing sense of roundness and weight to the densely layered blossoms of the most complex varieties—the tea rose, noisette, and hybrid perpetuals (the latter developed by the Victorians)—while at the same time suggesting the lightness and delicacy of the individual petals.
“It is in his roses that Fantin has no equal,” the painter Jacques-Émile Blanche wrote. “The rose—so complicated in its design, contours and color, in its rolls and curls, now fluted like the decoration of a fashionable hat, round and smooth, now like a button or a woman’s breast—no one understood them better than Fantin. He confers a kind of nobility on the rose, which so many watercolorists have rendered insipid and insignificant by their bits of coloring on vellum, screens, and fans. He bathes it in light and air, uncovering with the point of his scraper the canvas…beneath layers of color, so creating these interstices through which the painting breathes… He captures 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 bright, cleverly juxtaposed splashes of color” (“Fantin-Latour,” Revue de Paris, 15 May 1906, pp. 311-312).
Dispensing with the complicated, overly abundant compositions in which most floral painters liked to show off their skills, Fantin preferred to work with simpler arrangements that allowed him to focus attention on the delicate qualities of the blossoms themselves, a quality his English collectors particularly appreciated. The close harmony of white and pale pink blossoms in the present still-life reflects the taste, in both Paris and London, for the “symphony” paintings of James McNeill Whistler, since 1858 Fantin’s close friend, colleague, and advocate.
By the mid-1870s Fantin was disheartened by the lack of recognition for his flower paintings in the official Paris Salon, and an association with the dealer Durand-Ruel lasted only a few years. The collectors Edwin and Ruth Edwards, on Whistler’s recommendation, became Fantin’s exclusive agents in Britain; Ruth continued in this capacity following her husband’s death in 1879. Fantin exhibited annually at the Royal Academy in London. Such became the desirability of his flower paintings in England that Fantin no longer depended on arranged commissions and the accompanying requirements that dictated the content of his compositions—he was free to paint as he wished, with reasonable certainty that his pictures would find eager buyers.

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