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Jan. 20 Art Minute: Henri Fantin-Latour, Flowers and Fruit

Art Minute, Art of the Week, toledo museum of art
Henri Fantin-Latour (French, 1836–1904), Flowers and Fruit. Oil on canvas, 1866. Toledo Museum of Art, Purchased with funds from the Libbey Endowment, Gift of Edward Drummond Libbey, 1951.363. On view in the special exhibition "ONE EACH: Still Lifes by Pissarro, Cézanne, Manet & Friends"

This canvas was painted in June when hydrangeas, ranunculus, and roses are all in bloom. Henri Fantin-Latour’s characteristic diffused light envelops the forms. The painting achieves subtle and appealing color harmonies with its rich pink, red, orange, yellow, green, and plum brown. Flowers, glass vase, and porcelain bowl are composed of brushstrokes that vary in thickness and hue to evoke texture and volume. For example, thick strokes that depict the white membrane of the orange wedges give way to thinner strokes for their sides, veiling the strong orange pigment beneath.

Fantin portrayed three distinct subjects in his paintings: portraits; imaginary compositions reflecting his love of contemporary opera; and still lifes. Only his still lifes, however, were widely successful. Fantin became renowned for his precise rendering of nature, in part a reflection of the mid-19th-century fascination with photography and of the elevation of images of modern life rather than of history, allegory, or exotic places.

This work is currently on view in the special exhibition ONE EACH: Still Lifes by Pissarro, Cézanne, Manet & Friends.