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Nature morte à la tasse de café

Nature morte à la tasse de café
signed and dated 'Fantin. 1865.' (lower right)
oil on canvas
18 7⁄8 x 15 5⁄8 in. (47.6 x 39.5 cm.)
Painted in 1865
John Phillip, London (commissioned from the artist, 1865); sale, Christie's, London, 31 May 1867, lot 93.
Stuart Smith, Scotland (acquired at the above sale).
The Lefevre Gallery (Alex. Reid & Lefevre, Ltd.), London (by 1957).
Mrs. A.E. Pleydel-Bouverie, London.
The Lefevre Gallery (Alex. Reid & Lefevre, Ltd.), London.
Mrs. Aaron M. Weitzenhoffer, Oklahoma (by 1982).
Private collection, Oklahoma (by descent from the above); sale, Christie's, New York, 4 November 2003, lot 3.
Private collection, Chicago (acquired at the above sale).
By descent from the above to the present owner.
London, The Lefevre Gallery (Alex. Reid & Lefevre, Ltd.), XIX and XX Century French Paintings, October-November 1957, p. 9, no. 8 (illustrated, p. 10; titled Fleurs variées).
Paris, Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais; Ottawa, National Gallery of Canada and San Francisco, California Palace of the Legion of Honor, Fantin-Latour, November 1982-September 1983, pp. 123-124, no. 31 (illustrated, p. 123; titled Fleurs de printemps avec une tasse et une soucoupe).
Post lot text
Brame & Lorenceau will include this work in their forthcoming Fantin-Latour catalogue raisonné des peintures et pastels.

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Lot Essay

The freshness and verisimilitude of Fantin-Latour's still-lifes set him apart from other artists of this genre in the second half of the nineteenth century. While following in the footsteps of Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin and Anne Vallayer-Coster, Fantin's innovative realistic treatment of this subject-matter established him as the master in this field. In his review of the 1889 Salon, Emile Zola described the artist’s work: "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" (quoted in E. Lucie-Smith, Henri Fantin-Latour, New York, 1977, p. 37).
Fantin-Latour's extraordinary handling and attention to detail derives from his personal connection to his subject-matter. He gathered many of his flowers from the garden of his house at Buri, and combined different species, some freshly picked, others wilting, to emphasize the brevity of their existence.
The present painting was commissioned from the artist by the Royal Academician John Phillip. He and the collector Charles Waring had seen two similar works commissioned by fellow artist Alfred Elmore, and each had requested two of the same size. Having taken on the commission for the four works, Fantin-Latour sent them to Elmore and asked his patrons to settle the matter of their distribution based upon their tastes. The present work was considered the most desirable of the four, and thus became the cause of considerable wrangling among the men. Edwin Edwards, the artist's English agent, sealed the decision by writing a letter to the artist in April 1865 that Phillip was "more of a painter, more of an artist than the ordinary Academician" and he had been the first Academician to "understand, appreciate and buy from Whistler," having bought the latter's At the Piano (quoted from a letter from Edwards to Fantin, April 1865). Accordingly, Phillip received the present work.
“The majority of Fantin's English patrons of this period each purchased or commissioned still-lifes to hang as pendants. Fantin accommodated this taste by painting pictures in pairs on the same size canvas, although he never conceived of his pictures as pendants... Shortly after Fantin agreed to work on the commission. Edwards wrote to congratulate him on what he believed to be Fantin's approach to satisfying his patrons: 'to do nearly the same things with just a little variation to show that one's tastes are not limited. You are sure to please by doing the same things' (letter from Edwards to Fantin-Latour, 25 February 1865). What Edwards interpreted as a marketing strategy was in fact the outcome of Fantin's continuing interest in using still-life as a vehicle to formal experimentation and pursuing 'Art for Art's sake'” (Douglas Druick, exh. cat., op. cit., 1982-1983, p. 124).


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