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Title Dahlias
Collection Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museums
Artist Fantin-Latour, Henri (French painter and printmaker, 1836-1904)
Date 1873 (dated)
Signed yes
Description In this still life arrangement, some pompom dahlias, in a variety of colours, and other flowers, have been casually arranged in a vase that is not visible against a dark background. With light falling principally on the central part of the arrangement, the outer flowers of the bouquet are left in shadow and their sombre, purple shades almost merge with the murky background. Thus the light coloured flowers are brightly lit and the darker ones are in shadow. Fantin had achieved his aim, 'by oppositions to arrive at harmony'.
Current Accession Number ABDAG002546
Former Accession Number 32.2
Inscription front ul 'Fantin 73'
Subject still life
Measurements 33.2 x 48.3 cm cm (estimate)
Material oil on canvas
Acquisition Details Purchased 1932 with income from the Webster Bequest.
Provenance J.Russell Buckler; Charles Cheers Wakefield.
Principal Exhibitions A Scottish Collection - Treasures from Aberdeen Art Gallery, Nagasaki (touring), 2000-2001, cat.no. 33.
Publications Aberdeen Art Gallery Catalogue, 1937, pl. 16; Aberdeen Art Gallery and Japan Association of Art Museums, A Scottish Collection - Treasures from Aberdeen Art Gallery, Tokyo, 2000, pp. 104-105, cat. no.33; Brame, S. and Lorenceau, F., Catalogue Critique de Fantin-Latour, Paris, 2005.

In spite of more noble ambitions, Fantin-Latour made his fortune painting roses, peonies and a host of other flowers. Between 1864 and 1896, he completed over eight hundred flower pieces, all of which sold well in Britain, where friends and agents of the artist's, Mr and Mrs Edwards, worked hard to encourage a buoyant market. At one point the Edwards could sell all the paintings that Fantin-Latour could paint to an appreciable Victorian audience, who for a time, were happy to pay the inflated prices demanded by them.

Fantin soon grew tired of painting these still lifes, but there is no fatigue evident in his matchless handling of petal and leaf. In this work, Fantin has depicted a bunch of autumn flowering dahlias hastily arranged in a simple jug. He had to work quickly and decisively, before the bouquet of fresh flowers wilted. To hasten the drying of the paint, Fantin added a siccative, or drying ingredient, which had the effect of making the finished works appear rather glossy and the colours very rich. In spite of criticism by his contemporaries, Fantin liked the rich combinations of his paintings and in this work yellow, white, terracotta, red and purple pompom dahlias jostle for space in the crowded vase.

The orange-red dahlia at the bottom of the picture is built up with touches of vermilion, madder lake, and cadmium, whilst the bright yellow bloom above it is created by mixing cadmium and yellow ochre. For the white blooms thick paint is applied in short dashes, giving the flowers an immediacy, vibrancy and also a real sense of their fullness.

This painting may have been exhibited as no. 101 in 1873 in the seventh exhibition or no. 28 in 1874 in the ninth exhibition at the Society of French Artists (or both) (information kindly provided by Martin Hopkinson 2012). Charles Cheers Wakefield (1859-1941), one of the owners of the painting, was the First Viscount of Wakefield, as well as an oil industrialist and philanthropist.

Rights Owner Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museums
Author Jennifer Melville



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