2021 Summer Newsletter

page1image29811232             Summer Newsletter


Dear Member

As we now have a summer break until our lecture in September I am attaching two items for you. I know you will enjoy the collage of photos that Celia took when a group of us recently visited the Koestler Arts Exhibition, My Path, at the Millennium Gallery in Sheffield.

The second attachment is a readable lecture by the NE Chair, Lizzie Darbyshire.

I hope that as many of you as possible will be able to join us via Zoom on September 16th when Dr Suzanne Fagence-Cooper will speak on Love is Enough – At Home with Jane and William Morris.

We are all impatient for life to return to normal, so I trust we will soon be able to confirm that face-to-face lectures can resume in January, along with our other activities.

Take care and enjoy the summer (weather and travel permitting).

Lizzie and the Committee

Koestler Arts


Celia Kilner and a few members met Koestler Arts representatives to view the exhibition My Path, a creative walk through the Criminal Justice System held in the Millenium Gallery in Sheffield. The Arts Society Huddersfield awarded £100 to Katrina of HM Prison and Young Offender Institution New Hall for her Highly Commended Pastel of a tiger. Also shown is a selection of artworks that were on display – every one made by someone in a prison, secure hospital, young offender institution or on probation.

Ignace-Henri-Théodore Fantin-Latour (1836-1904)

The Rosy Wealth of June, 1886, oil on canvas, 70.5 x 61.6 cm.

National Gallery London

With summer upon us, this wonderful painting by the French artist, Fantin-Latour was an irresistible choice. Roses, dahlias, phlox and gladioli are packed tightly into an almost invisible vase, with the three spires of larkspur (left) and delphiniums (centre and right) providing lovely blue accents to the composition. If nothing else, the painting is testament to the artist’s extensive knowledge of garden flowers. Without doubt, we see in Fantin-Latour’s work the influence of the Dutch flower painters of the 17th and 18th centuries, such as Ambrosius Bosschaert’s Still life of Flowers in a Wan-Li Vase. Like its Dutch predecessor, The Rosy Wealth of June is a celebration of the successes of horticulture. This work, however, belongs firmly to the world of the 19th century drawing room and to new approaches to garden design, with the introduction of herbaceous borders and greenhouses. The 19th century saw an explosion of rose breeding with the coming of the China rose to Europe in the 1750s bringing the possibility of repeat flowering in the Bourbon rose, whose delicate petals here have the colour and texture of whipped cream. Equally the hybrid tea rose, first bred in 1867 by the French nurseryman Guillot of Lyons, is celebrated in the deep crimson petals to the right of centre. Delphiniums were a new innovation as a border plant. In 1881 the nurseryman James Kelway listed 16 varieties. By 1889 this had risen to a staggering 137! Dahlias, here in yellow and red, were known for centuries in South America but were only first successfully grown in continental Europe around 1800, reaching Britain after the Napoleonic Wars. By the 1830s there was a positive craze for them throughout Europe. Newly cultivated varieties of gladioli (top right), mostly grown in greenhouses, were now available as were those of phlox (centre), first sent to Europe from Virginia in the early 18th century but with selected forms on the market in Britain by the early 1800s and by the mid 1800s in France.

There, though, the similarity with Dutch predecessors ends. For whilst the 17th and 18th century paintings are ‘fictions’ of different species grown at different times of the year, created from drawings and preliminary sketches of each flower which were subsequently placed into the compositions, Fantin-Latour painted ‘from life’. He did not make sketches of a particular specimen in bloom to insert later into his arrangement. In contrast, if, when he received a commission, the flowers he wished to paint were not in season he would wait until they were. As he told his friend and fellow artist James McNeill Whistler ‘As soon as the flowers arrive when the good weather returns, I will do them’ – i.e. the promised canvases. This approach, of course, was not without its problems since summer flowers can be notoriously short-lived. With fast-fading blooms, the artist had to work quickly, a process which was helped by his carefully developed visual memory and by his use of ‘toiles absorbantes’ – canvases which were commercially available, prepared with a special absorbent gesso to speed up the drying process.

Fantin-Latour was born in Grenoble in 1836, moving with his family to Paris in 1841. He briefly attended the Ecole des Beaux Arts in 1854 and, as was common practice, studied in the Louvre, making copies of Old Master paintings. He also worked in the studio of Courbet in 1861.