Henri Fantin-Latour
(Grenoble, 1836-1904, Buré)
Self-Portrait, 1861
Oil on canvas, 81 x 65 cm
Fantin-Latour 167
When we recall that Pissarro was born in 1830, Manet in 1832, Degas in 1834 and Cézanne and Sisley in 1839, it is clear that Henri Fantin-Latour, born in 1836 in Grenoble, belongs entirely to this generation. He is also one of them in so far as he took part in their meetings in the Café Guerbois, even though he was more a listener than an active participant, and he was one of them in the Salon des Refusés of 1863; he admired Manet, whom in 1867 he painted in a way that cannot be matched as a self-assured elegant bourgeois, and around whom Renoir, Monet and Bazille gathered in the large group portrait "The Studio in Batignolles" of 1870. Yet Fantin-Latour never exhibited with his impressionist friends. Receptive and with a gift for friendship, which he maintained even with such an extravagant painter friend as Whistler, he preferred to retreat into his almost cramped private world. Of the twenty-three self-portraits listed by Madame Fantin-Latour in the Catalogue of the Works, twenty-two are painted eraly in the artist's career in the 1850s and 1860s. Our picture, done in 1861, shows the 25-year-old artist, with his palette in the right hand, his brush in the left, as the mirror would show it, his face brightly illuminated from the left against the dark background. It is the painter who had trained himself mainly by doing countless copies of the old masters of the Louvre, especially the Italians, his proud youthful pathos revealing his preference for music. The picture was exhibited in 1861 with two others in the Salon, after Fantin-Latour had been rejected by the jury in 1859 when first trying to exhibit in the Salon.