FANTIN-LATOUR Theodore
French painter born in Grenoble in 1836; died at Buré in the Orne in 1904. Although he was a friend of the Impressionists, being about the same age as Manet (born 1832), Degas (born 1834) and Monet (born 1840), his work is not Impressionist, either in spirit or in form. He was more like a late Romantic, inclined to serve his imagination rather than to depict reality, even a poetic reality such as Monet's. The exact representation of ordinary landscapes and their changing lights did not interest him. He painted fairies gambolling in clouds, or in rivers, or -- when music, which he loved passionately, invoked them -- in airy farandoles. He also painted flowers in great quantities, because those were the paintings that his clientèle bought. Between 1864 and 1896 he painted flowers almost exclusively. His gift of transfiguration was so natural that he invested each canvas with that secret life, that sweetness, which makes his work as a whole so ineffably appealing. Can he be described as a Realist because he painted some fine portraits and knew how to catch a likeness? We are, in fact, indebted to him for some group portraits of his friends; leading musicians, writers and painters of his time, among them Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Zola, Manet, Monet, Renoir and Whistler. These are photographic documents (not unlike the early paintings of guild groups) which will hold infinite interest for later generations, and testify to FantinLatour's sentiments and good taste. But there again, what he sought, even in those portraits with their striking likenesses, was to gratify his own sympathies rather than to preserve any one particular moment, or any one particular aspect of these people. Fantin-Latour did not adhere to any of the revolution theories and techniques of his friends and of his time. This was not due to cautiousness on his part. He was by nature discreet and peaceful, and he wanted his art to be the same. Unattached to any school, FantinLatour propounded nothing and invented even less. He created a world of his own and gave it material form without seeking originality and without acknowledging any dominant influence -unless, perhaps, that of Delacroix, adapted to his own more modest capabilities.
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