Not all professional painters are given such diverse educations as that received by Henri Fantin-Latour. Born in 1836 to a painter, young Henri would begin painting alongside his father as early as ten years of age. By the time he was fourteen he was under the tutelage of Horace Lecoq de Boisbaudran, a non traditional painting teacher who demanded his students to paint only from memory.
Henri would stay with his Master for six years before heading to Paris and �cole des Beaux-Arts, which he attended for less than one year. He next worked briefly at the studio of French Realist painter Gustave Courbet before beginning his career as a copyist in 1853. He would earn his living performing this task for more than twelve years.
In 1858 however he met James Whistler, who encouraged him to travel to England in order to exhibit at the Royal Academy. The London public greatly appreciated Henri's original work - especially his still life and floral paintings, and he soon began to take private portrait commissions.
He began to exhibit in France in 1861, at the Paris Salon. By 1862 his reputation was such that he was able to join the Society of Watercolorists, along with Manet and Whistler. During this period he became close friends with many of the Impressionists, but throughout his career he refused to exhibit with them due to his rejection of their methods and theories.
His work did take some unexpected directions however, as he began a series of prints that were purely fantasy works, which many art historians point to as a precursor of later symbolist movements. He was deeply inspired by music, and created the lithographs based on the works of contemporary German composers such as Wagner and Berlioz.
By the end of the 1890s he was finished with commission work and formal paintings and began to paint fantastical images in a significantly freer manner, relying on much more delicate color palettes than in any earlier works.
Many art historians point to his group portraits as collections of the day's most prominent artists, and Henri painted more than twenty self-portraits of himself. His paintings are in the collections of dozens of museums around the world, and his canvases can reach staggering sums at auction.