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March 20, 2003

Pic of the Day


In researching material for my series of postings on Impressionism, I must say that French painting of the second half of the 19th century is truly remarkable stuff. Yes, it was made up of various rather politicized and contending schools, but I'll let you in on a little secret--more or less every approach (hyper innovative to ultra-conservative) yielded its share of pretty fantastic imagery.

Today's image is by a painter--Henri Fantin-Latour--who is by no means unrepresented in art museums. Still, he always feels a bit marginalized in curatorial presentation. His work is not in step with the radical experiments of his friends the New Painters (whose works are always the real point of the rooms in which his paintings hang.) Still lifes and portraits by Fantin-Latour lack any of the blunt, manifesto-like quality so highly valued by the museum mandarinate. They hang back, full of modesty and unobtrusive good taste, like well-bred guests. They are almost nothing but exhilations of aesthetic sensibility, offered with no armor plating of significance or theory. And yet, how terrific they are.

H. Fantin-Latour, Still Life with Flowers, 1881

I cannot resist including a small anecdote about the painter. To appreciate it, you must understand that Fantin-Latour hung out as a student at the Cafe Moliere with a crew of exiled Irish Nationalists in the 1850s, attended the Lesjosnes Salon with its marked republican atmosphere in the 1860s, was an intimate of the most famous bohemians of his day, including Rimbaud and Verlaine, in the 1870s, and a supporter of Dreyfus in the 1890s--in short, someone with a full artistic and political life. Nonetheless, after witnessing a discussion between Manet and Felix Bracquemond on the relationship between art and politics, he wrote to a friend:

I share none of these ideas and I say that Art has nothing to do with such matters.

Perhaps we should enlist him in your legion of not-primarily-political individuals.



posted by Friedrich at March 20, 2003


Such a beautiful still life. I love it. The subtle use of color, the makes me feel peaceful. And it's simply flowers!

Thanks for showing it.

Posted by: laurel on March 22, 2003 3:07 PM

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