Learning From Great Artists- Henri Fantin-Latour

Today I want to focus on the paintings of Henri Fantin-Latour. His still life and alla prima work is what I am most drawn too. The loose brush strokes and tonality speak for themselves but let’s take a deeper dive.

First, we have to remember that Fantin-Latour painted during the mid 19th century so his materials were limited and still handmade by the artists and artisans themselves. They were most likely able to source materials or buy brushes from local merchants in the 1800’s but try to imagine different colored pigments and an assortment of brushes with wild animals fur and cloth sold for use as a canvas.

I decided to replicate “Still Life with Mustard Pot”, 1860 so I laid out a palette of colors from that time period. The deep yellow cad and burnt sienna hue in the background are the most saturated tones in the entire painting. No modern, highly saturated colors were used and muted down because the shade and tone will be even more distant from the tones Latour could produce. I also want to know if their are specific color mixes I don’t realize until I have to remix the same tones he made. It also shows the intelligence and attention to detail of professionals from this pre impressionist era.

The composition is so different that most of his work in terms of complexity. The simplified set up forced him to find a more complex angle for the table, and in turn, all three utensils are arranged to add energy to the composition. In a standard frontal composition, the spoon would be hidden by the knife and neither would produce the same interest view in parallel with the table and plates. It is said that Monet made fun of his figurative work and it embarrassed him so much he focused on still life and landscape work more heavily. When looking at his work, you don’t assume this the case, but it is important to not let such comments effect you as you pursue your artistic expression.