Portrait of Sonia by Henri Fantin-Latour
image of Portrait of Sonia, 1890 by Henri Fantin-Latour, oil on canvas
Not all the painting produced in France in the 1890s traced its lineage to impressionism or had Cassatt's bold color and composition. This portrait, for example, with its meticulous technique and careful attention to texture and detail, seems almost anachronistic. The artist was an intimate of the impressionists and avant-garde -- perhaps his most famous work is a group portrait that includes Manet, Renoir, Monet, and Zola -- but Fantin exhibited at the Salon and never abandoned his allegiance to the old masters. Still, this portrait of Fantin's niece projects a different sort of modernism. He approaches his subjects as a camera lens, sharpened to such intense focus that it illuminates a preternatural reality beyond appearance.