Henri Fantin-Latour (1836-1904) first exhibited his Hommage à Délacroix at the Salon of 1864. In an awkward, stilted composition, some of the most illustrious names of the time, including Whistler, Champfleury, Manet and Baudelaire, along with Fantin himself, are seated or standing around a portrait of the deceased artist, Eugène Delacroix. Striking for the stark contrast between the artist’s white shirt and the deeply sombre clothing of the others, the painting would be one of the first amongst many other group portraits that the French painter would produce in his lifetime.
Born in Grenoble, Henri Fantin-Latour learnt how to draw from his father and in 1850, joined the studio of Horace Lecoq de Boisbaudran. Fantin spent long hours copying the works at Musée du Louvre, which led to some of his first assignments as a copyist. He is best known and remembered for his group portraits and still life paintings of delicately arranged flowers.
Musée du Luxembourg’s new retrospective of Henri Fantin-Latour’s works is refreshing in that it goes beyond these genres and explores some of the other themes and styles that formed part of the artist’s oeuvre. Titled “A fleur de peau”, the exhibition unfolds chronologically, with the first room dedicated to some of the early works that Fantin painted between 1853 and 1873. In a dimly lit room, the portraits of artists’ two sisters absorbed in quotidian tasks stand in sharp contrast with the dramatic and gritty (and somewhat unsettling) self-portraits of the artist.
Musée du Luxembourg