Henri Fantin-Latour spent each summer at his country house at Buré in Normandy, Northern France. During this time, he would paint delicate, hauntingly beautiful flower studies mainly for wealthy buyers in London. He considered that these were holiday pot-boilers.
On the other hand, Fantin felt always that his real artistic reputation lay in the paintings that filled his time in his Paris studio, and were submitted to Salon exhibitions. He hoped that the world would remember him for his Salon pictures - large and mysterious fantasies in which he tried to portray the emotions and passions of Wagner's and Berlioz' controversial operas and music-dramas. Today, we must be grateful that Fantin continued to enjoy painting his flower studies, and that they provided him with a measure of financial security.
Each summer morning he would rise early and explore the fields around the house at Buré in to find the freshest and most beautiful of the day's blooms. Returning, he would arrange his finds carelessly in unobtrusive containers - he preferred glass for roses - before making his colour notes and then starting his painting. He painted indoors, and this conscious avoidance of open-air impressionism accounts for Fantin's masterly control of the even, diffused light which illuminates gently, fixing the timeless moment of perfection without bruising the dying blooms.
These gravely beautiful flower studies still speak eloquently to us after a century spent delighting their owners. Adelaide art lovers have always appreciated Fantin's skill and there are fine examples in public and private collections. Carrick Hill's Roses is a particularly beautiful composition, and there is also a lovely Fantin painting of a bowl of poppies in the Art Gallery of South Australia's collection on North Terrace.
Between 1864 and 1896 Fantin painted over 800 of his now highly-prized flower studies. His English agents, Mr. and Mrs. Edwin Edwards, found ready buyers among the wealthy merchants of London, then at the height of her commercial power.
Apart from a couple of visits to London, Fantin never travelled further from Paris than his summer home in Normandy. His flower studies are the product of an artist who never saw the white heat of a southern sun. They are redolent of the moist greyness, the fertility, the gentleness of the northern French countryside. Both Spring Bouquet and Roses show flowers with petals plumped with dew. Fantin's skill has preserved that exquisite moment of newly-picked freshness that in the gentler seasons of France seems to linger forever.