This painting will be included in the Catalogue raisonné of Fantin-Latour's paintings and pastels by Galerie Brame & Lorenceau currently in preparation.
From the 1860s, still-life painting became increasingly important to Fantin-Latour, partly due to the measure of financial success it provided, but more importantly as an academic discipline.
For Fantin-Latour still-life painting was a means to understand the 'achievement of revered masters like Velasquez and Rembrandt' (D. Druick, Fantin-Latour, Exh. cat., 1983, p. 114). Edward Lucie-Smith writes that 'Fantin's flower pieces have a special quality which is well summed up in Jacques-Emile Blanche's description of them: "Fantin studied each flower, its grain, its tissue, as if it were a human face". But this is true with one proviso: he looked at flowers, as he did at faces, with no perceptions. His belief, academic in origin, that technique in painting was separable from the subject to which the artist applied it, enabled him to see the blooms he painted not as botanical specimens, but as things which, though not necessarily significant in themselves, would generate significant art upon the canvas' (Henri Fantin-Latour, New York, 1977, pp. 22-23).
Dahlias was bought by Edwin Edwards with whom Fantin-Latour began a deep friendship and an important business relationship at Sunbury in 1861. In the course of his visits to England, where he often stayed with the Edwards, Edwin Edwards introduced Fantin-Latour to the most important dealers and collectors in Victorian England. Commissions for the artist's still-lives soon followed and he quickly became a commercial success. Edwards also introduced Fantin-Latour to the MacNicol Gallery in Glasgow, from whom Major H. J. Dunsmuir purchased the present painting.
Herbert Dunsmuir was born in Glasgow in the 1890s where his father had founded the marine engineering business of Dunsmuir & Jackson on the Clyde. Educated at Glenalmond, he served with the Highland Light Infantry during the First World War. Thereafter, he moved to Ayrshire and, following the sale of the shipping business, his lifetime of collecting began. His eye was akin to other astute Scottish collectors of the period and, like them, he benefitted from the outstanding Glaswegian dealers as well as their London counterparts. His taste encompassed the Glasgow Boys, the Barbizon school, the Impressionists and the Scottish Colourists as well as English painters such as Sir Alfred Munnings.