151109: Museo Thyssen-Bormisza: Henri Fantin-Latour 1836 – 1904

Museo Thyssen-Bormisza: Henri Fantin-Latour 1836 – 1904 People and flowerpots or Dr. Fantin and Mr. Latour “Henri Fantin-Latour (1836 – 1904)”: the encounter with the French artist's first works is equally dispassionate as the title of this exhibition. Portraits and self-portraits: sullen glances from the almost demonic faces without any expression – or all of them with the same expression – that of the artist? If it weren’t for the symbolic allegories of arts and musicians with the elegiac homage to the “Anniversary (to Berlioz)”. While the seriously composed group-portraits are designed as austere photographs, the allegories are clearly influenced by symbolism. And indeed, his travels to England lead him to the Pre-Raphaelites and strengthened his love of nature and natural depictions even more. But Fantin never painted outdoors. Well-educated, a music expert, patient mediator among English and French painters, friend of the artistic elite during his time in Paris, strict studio painter, specialized on flower- and fruit still lifes with great success in England, which he also painted in the studio and conveying a dazzling energy. His motifs concentrate on the essence. Fantin-Latour advises to “paint a person as one paints a flowerpot.” Whoever thinks this explains the rigidity of his portraits errs: he devotes his love to flowers and fruits. They are filled with life – something he acknowledges for people as well. But the conception, the background, the dazzling light create distance, artificiality, or the frozen moment of taking a photograph. This is especially obvious in “Coin de table”, 1872, with Paul Verlaine, Arthur Rimbaud and other French poets seated around a table. The portraits of women reading are far more romantic. He learned his craft by copying the works of old masters at the Louvre. Curator Vincent Pomarède chose two especially beautiful examples of this phase: small oil paintings “Paradise”, a Tintoretto-copy, made in 1870, small, confused, insinuated, unclear, and “El Calvario” a Veronese-copy (1854). And there are two copies of Veronese’s “Wedding at Cana”: one from Belfast another from Mexico-city. Maybe Fantin-Latour, whose work was presented in 150 English and more than 70 French exhibitions during his lifetime, is now no longer given much attention because he lacked a certain line, a trademark. The exceptions: in 2007, the Foundation de l’Heritage in Lausanne dedicated its exhibition to Fantin “De la réalité au rève” and now the Thyssen-Bormisza, in cooperation with the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian in Lisbon. By Clementine Kügler Museo Thyssen-Bormisza 28014 Madrid, Palacio de Villahermosa Paseo del Prado, 8l, until 10.01.10 http://www.museotheyssen.org/

Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza
28014 Madrid, Palacio de Villahermosa Paseo del Prado, 8.
Tel: +34 (0)91 369 01 51, Fax: +34 (0)91 420 27 80
Email: mtb@museothyssen.org

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