“[The floral still life] is, I think, an excellent subject to paint.”
– Claude Monet to Frédéric Bazille
Among the many wonderful works in the exhibition, Working Among Flowers – Floral Still Life Painting in Nineteenth-Century France, were paintings by one of our favorite artists, Henri Fantin-Latour (1836 – 1904). The show includes works by dozens of artists including Matisse, Bonnard, Redon, Monet, van Gogh, Cézanne, Cassatt, Renoir as well as earlier works by artists of the eighteenth century including Chardin and Redouté. It has traveled from the Dallas Museum of Art to the Virginia Museum of Fine Art, where we had the opportunity to view it, and will reopen on July 19th at the Denver Art Museum.
It is comprised of far more than what the title conveys, including works from nearly two centuries, a time during which still life and landscape subjects were beginning to supplant the traditional historical and religious subjects of paintings. The still life was being reinvented and elevated beyond its previous classification of decorative to a new acceptance as important and serious work.
Fantin-Latour was a master of the genre. His exquisite floral still lifes have captivated and inspired us for years and it was a special treat to see this grouping of them in person. But we were not familiar with the equally brilliant work of his wife, artist Victoria Dubourg Fantin-Latour (1840 – 1926). Although the exhibition included only one of her paintings, it spurred us to learn more about her life and work.
Dubourg was born in Paris. It was at age 26 that she met Fantin-Latour at the Louvre, where they were both copying master paintings as part of their study. After a long engagement, they were married in 1876. The painting above was Fantin-Latour’s gift to Dubourg upon their engagement. Dubourg and Fantin-Latour were central to their circle of friends, Edouard Manet, Berthe Morisot and Edgar Degas. It is surprising that Dubourg’s exemplary work is not as well known today as that of her contemporaries.
The two worked side by side in adjacent studios, both creating paintings that have been called “domestic interior landscapes”. Dubourg exhibited at the Paris Salons of 1894 and 1895 and was a member of the Royal Academy from 1882 through 1896. She received the Legion d’Honneur in 1920. She was an accomplished artist winning awards at the Salons and selling to the Musée de Luxembourg.
Dubourg and Fantin-Latour, each in their own right, established successful and independent careers. Dubourg was also an avid gardener, and it is believed that the flowers from her cottage garden were those that were used in her paintings and in those of Fantin-Latour.
Perhaps we know so little about Dubourg’s work and so much more about her husband’s paintings because she dedicated herself after his death to creating his catalogue raisonné and insuring his legacy would be secured.
We thought you might enjoy seeing some of her exceptional paintings.
Join us on The Artist’s Road for more interesting discussions, interviews with top artists and discounts in the unique Artist’s Road Store.
–John and Ann