In the first of these two articles about European fine art painting on fans, I showed how, between 1874 and 1879, Edgar Degas and Camille Pissarro had started making these unusual works, and met with success when one was Pissarro’s first painting to be sold to an American collector.
At that time, the struggling Swedish painter and illustrator Carl Larsson was in Paris. He must have seen some of Pissarro’s painted fans, and as he was switching to his mature medium of watercolour, painted this superb Rococo Idyll, in 1884. At the left, an elegant Rococo gentleman – a recurrent figure in Larson’s paintings at this time, and shown in the detail below – is sat at a table under a chestnut tree by a lake. It’s autumn and the leaves in the foreground have already changed colour. In the misty distance is a couple in a rowing boat.
Paul Gauguin also started painting fans. The earliest of these works that I’ve been able to find is this French Landscape after Cézanne from 1885, apparently painted in gouache on canvas. He has written a dedication to a friend, which was signed in Copenhagen. This dates the painting to the first half of that year, as in the June he moved back to Paris following an unsuccessful attempt to work as a tarpaulin salesman in Denmark. It’s also unclear why he painted this landscape, which is far from being Danish, in the style of Cézanne.
In the same year, Gauguin painted this fan with a far more conventional French Landscape. Whether this was intended as a contrast to that in the style of Cézanne isn’t clear.
The following year, probably after Gauguin had gone to live in Pont-Aven in Brittany, he painted this Basket of Flowers and Fruits (1886), returning to a more modern style which may again have been intended to recall that of Cézanne.
Gauguin’s Little Cat at a Bowl from 1888 shows a kitten who has half-climbed into a bowl on a table, which is covered with a squared cloth. Next to it is a pile of dark green fruit, and below those what could be the rear end of a mouse, or another item of fruit.
Gauguin continued to paint fans well into the 1890s, it appears. His Ondine III from 1889 was painted between his break-up with Vincent van Gogh in Arles and preparations for his trip to Tahiti. It bears a dedication to a Doctor Paulin, and is the third in his series of paintings of this water nymph frolicking in the waves.
The last of Gauguin’s painted fans which I have been able to locate was made following his return from Tahiti, when he continued to paint Tahitian motifs. Arearea (Joyfulness) II dates from 1894, two years after his original Arearea, and is an adaptation of its motif to the fan format.
A few other artists continued to paint fans too. The Swedish painter Anders Zorn perhaps inevitably chose this pair of Bathers in 1889, the year of his great success at the Exposition Universelle in Paris. This is one of the few fan paintings by major artists which bears the marks for folding and mounting in the slats of a real fan.
In about 1890, when he was studying in Europe, the Australian Impressionist Charles Conder painted this unusual fan in sanguine, a red hard pastel stick used to model tone in studies for finished works. This is pictured in an early biography of Conder, but I’ve been unable to discover anything more about it.
By the end of the nineteenth century, fan painting seems to have died out among major artists. My last example, though, comes from the little-known Anglo-French Symbolist painter Louis Welden Hawkins.
Like Degas and Pissarro before him, at the start of the twentieth century Hawkins turned to making masks and fans in a bid to augment his family’s income. These proved most popular at the World Exhibition of 1900, and is exemplified in this non-folding Fan from 1905. His art nouveau style was seen as very fashionable at the time.
Sadly, painted fans never seem to have regained the popularity which they enjoyed during the 1880s. For a brief period then, several major artists created some wonderful examples of this unusual type of painting.