21 January 2017

Fantin-Latour's Modern Flowers

"I have no more more ideas on art in my head, and I am obliged to make flowers. In doing so, I think of  Michelangelo,  in front of peonies and roses. This cannot last. " (translation by J.L.)

« Je n’ai jamais eu plus d’idée sur l’art dans la tête, et je suis obligé de faire des fleurs. En le faisant, je pense à Michel-Ange, devant des pivoines et des roses. Cela ne peut durer. »  - Henri Fantin-Latour, Lettre à Edwin Edwards, 15 mai 1862

Fortunately for us, the artist was wrong in this case.  Henri Fantin-Latour is one of the great painters of flowers, able to combine such disparate elements as calm amidst the stages of vegetal life.  If there was any strain involved in creating these works, the artist has prevented us from seeing it.  
Something else we might not be aware of is the lowly status that still life painting had in the hierarchy of genres in Fantin-Latour's day, although he was keenly aware of it both as reflected in the quote given here and in the many portraits he painted, works that he hoped would secure his reputation.    For a still life to command attention it needed some religious or literary reference to lift it above the ordinary, so you could say that these flowers, stripped of all justification but their own aesthetic loveliness, are the early flowers of modern art.
The Fage series on the words of the artists is a good resource for anyone who wants to know how artists see their own works.  However, once the work is released to the world, like a bird, it may take a surprising path and who knows where it will light?

To read more Words of the Artists (in French).
Image:
Henri Fantin-Latour  - untitled, possibly 1872 (see writing in upper left corner), Louvre museum, Paris.

4 comments:

Tania said...

Did you see this ? http://www.grandpalais.fr/fr/evenement/fantin-latour

Jane said...

Merci, Tania. C'est bon! Voius etes toujours bien informe.
I'll look at this right noiw.

Marian Waelder said...

Pandas…Thank you!

Jane said...

Marian, you are welcome!


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