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Flowers have long been the subject of great art, and the fascination of great artists. Paintings featuring floral subjects became especially popular during the nineteenth century. The industrial revolution, which occurred in Europe between 1790 and 1850, created a new and wealthy middle class. For men whose fortunes had been born of cotton mills and other forms of mass industrial production, the benefits of purchasing original works of art was twofold. On one hand it provided them with beautiful and valuable objects to fill the great manor houses they built in imitation of the ancient nobility. On the other, the value of these paintings both increased their wealth and gave it a tangible credibility.
One artist who is remembered for his flower paintings is French painter Henri Fantin-Latour. Henri was born in Grenoble in south-eastern France in 1838, to pastelist and portrait painter Theodore Fantin-Latour, and a Russian mother. In 1841, the family moved to Paris. He received his first instruction in drawing from his father, and went on to study at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. Afterwards he worked for a time in the studio of famed French painter Gustave Courbet (1819-1877). During the 1850’s he became associated with the Impressionists, many of whom he had met while copying the old masters in Paris’ Louvre museum. The Impressionist painters he became associated with in particular were Edgar Degas (1834-1917), Edouard Manet (1832-1883), and Berthe Morisot (1841-1895). Despite this, his work never fully belonged to the impressionist movement, remaining much more conservative. It is in part due to this restrained conservatism that his work would become extremely popular in the United Kingdom, in particular his floral still lifes.
The flowers arrangements depicted by Henri Fantin-Latour follow some of the same principles that we keep up today here at Westmount Florist, not to mention that he often painted some of our favorite flowers. Keeping things simple and elegant, his paintings never depicted more than three varieties of blooms at a time. In addition, he kept his palette restricted within a spectrum of one or two colour combinations. The flowers most often seen in his work are asters, peonies and roses, which he would frequently depict alongside grapes, apples and other fruits.
We’re loving the loose and airy look this summer at Westmount Florist, so next time you come in to pick up a few blooms to brighten your home office or cheer up a loved one, why not look to art history for your inspiration. Gather together gardeny blooms such as lysianthus, hydrangea, or esperance roses, and let them make their own simple and elegant statement just like Latour’s. Afteral, aren’t some of the best new ideas already classics?