Thanks to the extraordinary eye for detail he had developed as a portrait painter, the artist was capable of seeing each flower with remarkable specificity. According to the critic Edward Lucie-Smith, "His belief, academic in origin, that technique in painting was separable from the subject to which the artist applied it, enabled him to see the blooms he painted not as botanical specimens, but as things which, though not necessarily significant in themselves, would generate significant art upon the canvas. At the same time, the naturalist bias of the milieu in which he had been brought up encouraged him to try and give a completely objective description of all the nuances of color and form which he saw in the bouquet he had arranged" (Edward Lucie-Smith, Henri Fantin-Latour, New York, 1977, pp. 22-23).
The present work was owned by the Viscountess Nancy Astor until 1969 (see fig. 2). Born in Danville, Virginia, the Viscountess moved to England at to marry Waldorf Astor following her divorce from Robert Gould Shaw III. Astor went on to became the first woman to sit as a Member of Parliament in the House of Commons in 1919, where she served until 1945.
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