Henri Fantin-Latour (1836-1904): Still Life with a Carafe

Henri Fantin-Latour (1836-1904): Still Life with a Carafe

10/20/2021, 3:50:38 PM
Henri Fantin-Latour (1836-1904): Still Life with a Carafe, Flowers and Fruit, 1865, oil on canvas, 59, 1 x 51, 5 cm, National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo In the hierarchy of the genres laid down by the Académie des Beaux-arts in the 17th century, the still life with fruit or flowers was relegated to the lowest level. By freeing himself from all literary, religious or historical pretexts (supposed to confer worth and nobility to the work) Fantin-Latour was taking the opposite view to these academic principles. This painting, which tells no story, is intended purely to appeal to the eyes, thus embodying one of the main aims of modern art. However for all that, it was not a radical break with tradition. Just as in his portraits, Fantin-Latour reveals his fondness for the past in his still life paintings. Here, the painter openly claims the legacy of Chardin, the master of the 18th century French school. The composition in the present painting, made up of various objects placed on a tablecloth-draped table, reflects the traditional methods of the 17th and 18th centuries. Similarly the motifs chosen -a wine-filled carafe, flowers in a vase, and fruit -are all standard motifs in such works. The simple contrast between the dark brown background and the pure white tablecloth and the stylish choice of placing a white china dish and white flowers on top of a white tablecloth are characteristic of Fantin-Latour's style. Moreover, the striking contrast between the hard textures of the glass carafe, vase, and plate and the tactile textures of flowers, peaches and the pumpkin is extremely modern. In the 1860s, Fantin-Latour's friends, Manet, Monet, Renoir and many others began to create stiII-life paintings, and there is a considerable connection between Manet's stiII-Iifes and Fantin-Latour's in terms of motifs and compositions.

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