In both the present work and the double portrait, Carolus-Duran presents a painterly homage to Fantin-Latour, perhaps anticipating the artist’s ambitious group portraits, the first of which, Hommage à Delacroix (1864, Musée d’Orsay, fig. 2) being painted just three years after the present work. One of the most sought after portrait painters in Paris, Carolus-Duran painted the likenesses of many friends, fellow artists and art-world professionals including Félix Tournachon (Nadar), Zacharie Austruc, Fritz Thaulow and Edouard Manet, among others, and in many ways adapted his painterly technique to each sitter. Unlike the dramatic chiaroscuro of the present work, in his Portrait d’Édouard Manet (circa 1877, Musée d’Orsay, fig. 3), for example, his brushwork is loose and open, detail is spare and form is hinted at only through subtle shifts in color.
In addition to being a portraitist, Carolus-Duran was well-known for his role as the founder and director of an innovative studio in Paris, where the emphasis in training was on color rather than line. As one of the artist's American pupils, J. Alden Weir explained: "Carolus-Duran, who is the great portrait painter of France of the present day, teaches his pupils still in a different way. He puts them in front of the living model with the brushes in their hands to represent the model as well as possible, making them draw and paint both at the same time" (as quoted in Dorothy Weir Young, The Life and Letters of J. Alden Weir, New Haven, 1960, p. 28).
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