Luminous Impressions: The Operatic and Fantasy Prints of Henri Fantin-Latour

January 12, 2013 — April 7, 2013

Henri Fantin-Latour
French, 1836-1904
Scène première du Rheingold (Opening Scene of Rheingold), 1876

Bequest of Gilbert M. Denman, Jr.


Ignace Henri Jean Théodore Fantin-Latour (1836-1904) was best known in England for exquisitely rendered, realistic still-lifes of tea roses and other flowers. But at home in France, the artist revealed a more romantic, highly emotional side through impressionistic lithographs inspired by his passion for opera, music, literature and poetry.
Luminous Impressions features a selection of over forty Fantin-Latour lithographs from a collection of more than 150 images bequeathed to SAMA by the late Gilbert M. Denman, Jr. in 2005. The images include fantasies of sensuous beauties and nymphs, dreamy allegorical and mythological scenes, and homages to Wagner, Berlioz, Shumann and Brahms. Fantin-Latour exhibited a number of his opera-based lithographs in the Paris Salon of 1876, and considered his graphic body of work to be his greatest artistic achievement. 

Fantin-Latour’s handling of the medium reveals outstanding technical virtuosity and classical training. The artist achieved drama and shimmering light effects by playing up the graininess of the lithographic stone; drawing into the stone with crayon and then scraping away lines with a stylus; and he experimented with a variety of China papers in the printing process to add color variation.