Book Report: Fantin-Latour by Michelle Verrier (1978)

Book coverThis book sat on my sofa-side table, an old Sauder printer stand actually–past the half century mark, and I still have two Sauder printer stands from the middle 1990s as household furniture–for over a year. Although in past years, I have browsed poetry or art monographs during football games, I did not do so this year. I’m not sure whether it’s that my attention span has withered or that I cannot switch between football plays and text as easily as I could when I was a younger man or if my current selection of monographs and poetry chapbooks does not compel me to read them. Maybe both.

So as the 2023 Winter Reading Challenge has a Pictorial category, so I grabbed this book. The artist comes of age, so to speak, at the same time as the Impressionists–and he exhibited at times with them in their anti-Salon shows, but he’s not really an Impressionist. His art has two veins, really (well, three): He was a successful painter of still lifes and flowers who did brisk trade in them amongst the aristocracy or at least the monied class in England, but that was not his passion. He liked to do more fantastic works based on things like Wagner’s Ring Cycle and dabbled in etching.

So the book presents about 16 pages of text and biography, which is a pretty good balance between the that and the actual art. Unfortunately, most of the images of the art are in black and white which really doesn’t do justice to the art itself, and one cannot really get a sense of the realism in the still lifes when they’re mostly gray. Although I note that one of the works is courtesy of the St. Louis Art Museum, so it’s entirely possible I have seen one of the works in this book in the flesh as I did go up there a couple of times over my decades in the St. Louis area.

At any rate, a nice collection of art. Even the dreamier fantasies are better than most modern art.

Fun fact: Henri Fantin-Latour signed his art Fantin to differentiate himself from his father who was also an artist.

Probably not that LaTour, though.

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