Detail from The Canal, Amsterdam, 1889, James McNeill Whistler, The Hunterian, University of Glasgow

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Henri Fantin Latour

Birthname: Ignace-Henri-Jean-Théodore Fantin Latour
Nationality: French
Date of birth: 14 January 1836
Place of birth: Grenoble
Date of death: 25 August 1904
Place of death: Bure
Category: artist

Identity:

Ignace-Henri-Jean-Théodore Fantin-Latour was a painter and lithographer of portraits, genre and still-life subjects. His father, Jean-Théodore Fantin-Latour, was a painter who taught his son from 1846.

Life:

Fantin-Latour is best known for his intimate genre scenes and for his luxurious flower pieces, but he also painted several group portraits that record his friendship with leading avant-garde artists. Homage à Delacroix (1864; Musée d'Orsay, Paris) shows Fantin-Latour with Baudelaire, Manet and Whistler grouped round a portrait of Delacroix. A Studio at Batignolles, sometimes called Homage à Manet, (1870; Musée d'Orsay, Paris) shows Monet and Renoir in Manet's studio.

Fantin-Latour studied under Horace Lecoq de Boisbaudran at the Petite Ecole de Dessin in Paris from 1850-56, went to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts for a few months in 1854, and met Courbet in 1859, becoming his student for a while in 1861. In 1857 Fantin-Latour became acquainted with Edouard Manet and exhibited with him at the Salon des Refusés in 1863. However he declined to exhibit with the Impressionist group at Nadar's studio in 1874. Much of his later career was devoted to lithography. He greatly admired contemporary German composers such as Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms and Richard Wagner and did imaginative lithographs illustrating their music.

Fantin-Latour met Whistler at the Louvre on 7 October 1858 when he (Fantin) was copying Veronese's Marriage Feast at Cana. He took Whistler to the Café Molière where he met Alphonse Legros, Emile A. Carolus-Duran and Zacharie Astruc. Fantin-Latour, Whistler and Legros formed the 'Société de Trois' in 1858, although in 1865 Legros was replaced by Albert Moore. Fantin-Latour also introduced Whistler to Gustave Courbet and those painters in his circle at the Brasserie Andler. In Paris in the late 1850s both Fantin-Latour and Whistler worked from the live model in Bonvin's studio under Courbet's instruction. Whistler's At the Piano y024 and Fantin-Latour's Les Deux Soeurs were exhibited in Bonvin's studio following their rejection at the 1859 Salon. There they were admired by Courbet.

Fantin-Latour visited Whistler in London in May 1859. Whistler's brother-in-law, Seymour Haden, bought some of Fantin-Latour's copies including the Marriage Feast at Cana, and also taught him to etch. Following this Fantin-Latour travelled to Britain a number of times, and exhibited at the Royal Academy regularly between 1862 and 1900. In December 1859 Whistler drew a picture of his friend in bed in his top hat, scarf and greatcoat, Fantin au lit m0296. In 1862 Whistler urged Fantin-Latour to join him in Madrid where he hoped they would together study the works of Velasquez.

In 1863 they both had their works rejected from the Salon but at the instigation of Napoleon III a Salon des Refusés was set up where they were able to exhibit. In Paris in 1865 Whistler posed in a Chinese robe for Fantin-Latour's Homage à la Verité: le Toast (now destroyed), which was exhibited at the Salon with Whistler's La Princesse du pays de la porcelaine y050.

Fantin-Latour and Whistler's correspondence was most active from 1860-65. In the correspondence, Whistler expressed his artistic frustrations as well as his aims, declaring his regret that he had not studied under Ingres. In 1867 he forcefully declared his rejection of Courbet's Realism.

During this period Whistler made a number of sketches of his work in the correspondence, notably in Wapping m0299, Sketch of 'Blue and Silver: Blue Wave, Biarritz' m0307 and Sketch of 'Symphony in White No. 3' m0323. Whistler originally intended that his Whistler in his Studio y063 should follow in the footsteps of Fantin-Latour's Hommage à Delacroix, showing Fantin-Latour, Moore, Whistler, Jo Hiffernan and 'la Japonaise' posed in his studio.

Fantin-Latour also introduced Whistler to the mnemonic techniques of Lecoq de Boisbaudran that was to be important for his Nocturnes of the 1870s.

Bibliography:

Bénédite, L., Catalogue des lithographs originales de Henri Fantin-Latour, Paris, 1899; Hédiard, G., L'Oeuvre de Fantin-Latour: Recueil de cinquante reproductions d'après les principaux chefs-d'oeuvre du maître, Paris, 1906; Jullien, A., Fantin-Latour: Sa vie et ses amitiés, Paris, 1909; Fantin-Latour, V., Catalogue complet, 1849-1904, de Fantin-Latour, Paris, 1911; Bénézit, E., Dictionnaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs, 8 vols, Paris, 1956-61; Druick, Douglas, and Michael Hoog, Fantin-Latour, Ottawa, 1983; Valérie M. C. Bajou, '(Ignace-)Henri(-Théodore) Fantin-Latour', The Grove Dictionary of Art Online, ed. L. Macy. 'Henri Fantin Latour', ArtUK website. 'Henri Fantin-Latour', Wikipedia.