Henri Fantin-Latour
(Grenoble, 1836-1904, Buré)
Roses and Lilies in a Glass Vase, 1864
Oil on canvas, 57 x 42.5 cm
Signed & dated lower left: Fantin 1864
Fantin-Latour 242
In a letter from the 1860s, when Fantin-Latour was still struggling hard for a living, he writes to his friend Edwards in England: "I have never had so many ideas on art in my head and am forced to paint flowers ! While I am painting them, I imagine Michelangelo before peonies and roses. It cannot go on like this". And yet it did go on like this, for during his lifetime Fantin-Latour painted more than eight hundred still lifes and studies of flowers, in order to earn his living; in his opinion this was still better than doing commissioned portraits, for which he would have been predestined, but he confined his portraits almost exclusively to his family and friends. The still life with lilies, roses, phlox and peonies in a spherical glass vase in the Bührle Collection was done in 1864. With its central symmetry it is anchored in the tradition of Ambrosius Bosschaert and Jan Brueghel, and its delicate chromatics betray Fantin-Latour’s affinities to Delacroix, Courbet and Manet. It never occurred to Fantin to paint flowers in a garden, not even after his marriage to the painter Victoria Dubourg in 1876 when he spent every summer on a country estate of her family at Buré in Normandy. This too distinguished the old-masterly Fantin from his Impressionist friends.