The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Ignace-Henri-Jean-Théodore Fantin-Latour, 1836-1904

Nationality: French
Date of Birth: 1836.01.14
Place of Birth: Grenoble
Date of Death: 1904.08.25
Place of Death: Bure


Ignace-Henri-Jean-Théodore Fantin-Latour was a painter and lithographer of portraits, genre and still-life subjects. His father, Jean-Théodore Fantin-Latour, was a painter who taught his son from 1846.


Fantin-Latour is best known for his intimate genre scenes and for his luxurious flower pieces, but he also painted several group portraits that record his friendship with leading avant-garde artists. Homage à Delacroix (1864; Musée d'Orsay, Paris) shows Fantin-Latour with Baudelaire, Manet and JW grouped round a portrait of Delacroix. A Studio at Batignolles, sometimes called Homage à Manet, (1870; Musée d'Orsay, Paris) shows Monet and Renoir in Manet's studio.

Fantin-Latour studied under Horace Lecoq de Boisbaudran at the Petite Ecole de Dessin in Paris from 1850-56, went to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts for a few months in 1854, and met Courbet in 1859, becoming his student for a while in 1861. In 1857 Fantin-Latour became acquainted with Edouard Manet and exhibited with him at the Salon des Refusés in 1863. However he declined to exhibit with the Impressionist group at Nadar's studio in 1874. Much of his later career was devoted to lithography. He greatly admired contemporary German composers such as Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms and Richard Wagner and did imaginative lithographs illustrating their music.

Fantin-Latour met JW at the Louvre on 7 October 1858 when he was copying Veronese's Marriage Feast at Cana. He took him to the Café Molière where he met Alphonse Legros, Emile A. Carolus-Duran and Zacharie Astruc. Fantin-Latour, JW and Legros formed the 'Société de Trois' in 1858, although in 1865 Legros was replaced by Albert Moore. Fantin-Latour also introduced JW to Gustave Courbet and those painters in his circle at the Brasserie Andler. In Paris in the late 1850s both Fantin-Latour and JW worked from the live model in Bonvin's studio under Courbet's instruction. JW's At the Piano (YMSM 24) and Fantin-Latour's Les Deux Soeurs were exhibited in Bonvin's studio following their rejection at the 1859 Salon. There they were admired by Courbet.

Fantin-Latour visited JW in London in May 1859. JW's brother-in-law, Seymour Haden, bought some of Fantin-Latour's copies including the Marriage Feast at Cana, and also taught him to etch. Following this Fantin-Latour travelled to Britain a number of times, and exhibited at the Royal Academy regularly between 1862 and 1900. In December 1859 JW drew a picture of his friend in bed in his top hat, scarf and greatcoat, Fantin au lit (M.296). In 1862 JW urged Fantin-Latour to join him in Madrid where he hoped they would together study the works of Velasquez. In 1863 they both had their works rejected from the Salon but at the instigation of Napoleon III a Salon des Refusés was set up where they were able to exhibit. In Paris in 1865 JW posed in a Chinese robe for Fantin-Latour's Homage à la Verité: le Toast (now destroyed), which was exhibited at the Salon with JW's La Princesse du pays de la porcelaine (YMSM 50).

Fantin-Latour and JW's correspondence was most active from 1860-65. In the correspondence, JW expressed his artistic frustrations as well as his aims, declaring his regret that he had not studied under Ingres. In August 1867 he forcefully declared his rejection of Courbet's Realism. During this period JW made a number of sketches of his work in the correspondence, notably in Wapping (M.299), Sketch of 'Blue and Silver: Blue Wave, Biarritz' (M.307) and Sketch of 'Symphony in White No. 3' (M.323). JW originally intended that his Whistler in his Studio (YMSM 63) should follow in the footsteps of Fantin-Latour's Hommage à Delacroix, showing Fantin-Latour, Moore, JW, Jo Hiffernan and la Japonaise posed in his studio. Fantin-Latour also introduced JW to the mnemonic techniques of Lecoq de Boisbaudran that was to be important for his Nocturnes of the 1870s.


Bénédite, L., Catalogue des lithographs originales de Henri Fantin-Latour, Paris, 1899; Hédiard, G., L'Oeuvre de Fantin-Latour: Recueil de cinquante reproductions d'après les principaux chefs-d'oeuvre du maître, Paris, 1906; Jullien, A., Fantin-Latour: Sa vie et ses amitiés, Paris, 1909; Fantin-Latour, V., Catalogue complet, 1849-1904, de Fantin-Latour, Paris, 1911; Bénézit, E., Dictionnaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs, 8 vols, Paris, 1956-61; Druick, Douglas, and Michael Hoog, Fantin-Latour, Ottawa, 1983; Valérie M. C. Bajou, '(Ignace-)Henri(-Théodore) Fantin-Latour', The Grove Dictionary of Art Online, ed. L. Macy at (accessed 22 February 2002).