One of the elusive yet ubiquitous figures of 19th century French painting is Henri Fantin Latour. He is often described as a realist, yet he also immersed himself in works of imagination. His group portraits recall Courbet. His friends included Bazile, Renoir and Sisley, but he was also close to Edouard Manet, Edgar Degas and Charles Gleyre. His still life oeuvre comprises a veritable universe of natural beauty. Few artists are as hard to classify.
The exhibit at the Luxembourg Museum, which runs until 12 February 2017, displays about sixty of his paintings and thirty lithographs and drawings. It proceeds chronologically and walks the visitor through the many facets of his work, including numerous stern self portraits. If there is one thread that unites the breadth of his work, it is his keen sense of observation, a wonderfully ephemeral talent.
Many speak of him as an influence in the birth of Impressionism, but why that is so escapes me. The usual reason cited is their common interest in the reality of the modern world, but that hardly resonates. Fantin Latour’s sense of realism is palpable. Impressionist realism gazes through a gauze veil. It is not similar, unless you narrow the focus to some works of Impressionist peripherals Manet and Degas, or a few of Bazille, who died before Impressionism took off.
This bite-sized exhibit, easily assimilated in about an hour, gives you the opportunity to judge for yourself as to where to place him.
Henri Fantin-Latour , White Lilies, 1877
Henri Fantin Latour Exhibition at Luxembourg Museum in Paris
September 14th 2016 to February 12th 2017 Open every day from 10:30am to 7pm Late Opening on Fridays until 10pm
19 rue de Vaugirard, 75006
Phone : 01 40 13 62 00