Sunday, July 15, 2007

Flowers in Art: French nineteenth century artists

Not Quite White
8" x 10", coloured pencil on Arches HP

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

There are so many artists who draw and paint flowers that I omitted from my first post for this Flowers In Art project that it needs a follow-on - and this is the first of a small number of follow-up posts.

A number of artists from the past were suggested by people in comments to my earlier post. There will be more - so keep those suggestions coming! This first follow-up post focuses on notable French nineteenth century artists who painted flowers (excluding Monet - who I'm doing next month).

It's impossible to cover all the artists identified this month. Consequently I'm revising my aim of trying to blog about all the artists this month and will instead do a brief synopsis of those artists identified and keep them on my 'to do' list for the future.

French nineteenth century artists

Two of the best known painters of flowers are Eduoard Manet and Henri Fantin Latour. Although both counted the Impressionist painters among their friends, both tended to associate more with the realism which was accepted by the Salon.

Both of these painters could be said to be strong influences (whether or not this is conscious) on a number of artists who currently sell flower paintings on the Internet.

Roses 1895
36.5 x 39 cm, oil on canvas

Henri Fantin-Latour,
National Gallery of Scotland
In this delicately-painted depiction of a glass vase full of roses Fantin-Latour manages to combine old and new styles of painting. A dark, rich background, which makes the roses stand out in this composition, was often used by much earlier flower painters in 17th Century Holland. The loose, short brushstroke, however, was a technique much favoured by many of Fantin-Latour's impressionist contemporaries. (BBC Painting Flowers - Henri Fantin Latour)
Henri Fantin-Latour (1836-1904) was a French painter and lithographer who was best known for his flower paintings which were well received in England. He apparently painted more than eight hundred still lifes and studies of flowers during his lifetime. It apparently never occurred to him to paint in flowers in the garden.

Pink and Yellow Roses 1875
33.6 x 39.3cm, oil on canvas
Henri Fantin-Latour (1836 - 1904)
York Art Gallery

See more of his paintings at the Painting the Summer: Henri Fantin-Latour exhibitions at the York Art Gallery exhibition. This is on right now - dates of the exhibition are 26 May - 23 September, 2007. Events associated with the exhibition here.


Edouard Manet (1832 - 1883) completed 17 paintings of flowers. These were among the last he completed while his health and mobility degenerated prior to his early death at age 51. His visitors brought him bouquets to paint.

Still Life with Roses and Tulips in a Dragon Vase, 1882
oil on canvas 56x36cm
Edouard Manet
Private Collection

In his later work, Manet avoids formal compositional hierarchy as scrupulously as he avoids "expressiveness" or "meaningfulness." This is particularly noticeable in the late flower paintings, like the remarkably reticent Roses and Tulips in a Vase, painted in 1882, not long before his death. The vase is both isolated and nonchalant, the slithery stems and roots seen through the transparent glass playing their intricate dragon curves against the succulent, declarative roundness of the open and half-open blossoms....
....the great art of Manet's artifice is to make all this look natural, the opposite of artificial. Skins, surfaces, touchable textures, the self-revelation (not the constructive power) of the juicy paint stroke: these are the delights of Manet's fruit and flowers, not those of inventive composition or expressive eloquence.
Death and Gender in Manet's Still Lifes by Linda Nochlin (Art in America May, 2001)
Branch of white peonies with shears 1864;
Edouard Manet

Musée d'Orsay, Paris

Manet's palette lightened as a result of the experiments with the younger Impressionist painters with whom he associated at the Café Guerbois. However he never experimented with the effects of light outside and preferred painting in the studio to working in the open air and made considerable use of black in his works. Manet nevertheless reduced the degree of botanical accuracy in his paintings compared to, for example, the flowers paintings of earlier Dutch artists.
Manet's flower-pieces were brilliant departures from the tradition that required every bloom to be botanically precise and accurate, like those of the Dutch and Flemish artists of the seventeenth century who catered for the requirements of floriculturist patrons. Flowers for the nineteenth-century artist with no such purpose to carry out were objects that invited study of the relationships of light and color, uncomplicated by the informative detail of the specialist. Art History
Mystudios (the website behind the link) has a well sourced and extensive collection of information about Manet and images of his paintings. Thanks to Dee Farnsworth for highlighting The Last Flowers of Manet by Robert Gordon (1986) which appears to be the definitive book about these paintings.

[Note about "Not Quite White": My drawing is of the interior of a white parrot tulip. I'm open to suggestions about a better name for it. I'm thinking about doing more like this as I particularly like the combination of the emphasis on structure and the way in which reality becomes abstracted.]

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1 comment:

df said...

Thanks for the shout out Katherine.
I love your "not quite white" drawing. The bits of red, and the coolness to warmer tones from left to right. The drawing has so much movement! I love the abstraction in nature too, and am blown away by fractals in nature.

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