Sunday, 3 January 2016


“A person himself believes that all the other portraits are good likenesses except the one of himself.” - Edvard Munch

Frédéric Bazille (1841-1870) was born in a Protestant family of the upper middle class of Montpellier in the south of France. His father was a rich landowner and wine grower as well as a notable of the city of Montpellier. In 1862, he went to Paris to continue with his studies of medicine, while spending most of his time at the School of Fine Arts to paint in the Workshop of Charles Gleyre, where he befriended Monet, Renoir, and Sisley. His artistic vocation went back to his meeting with a friend of his parents, the art collector and patron from Montpellier Alfred Bruyas , who influenced Courbet as well as the Impressionists. Initially, Bazille’s painting was strongly influenced by the works of Courbet and Manet.

During Easter of 1863, he stayed with Monet at Chailly in the forest of Fontainebleau in order to experiment with open air painting. In 1864 he rented an artist studio in Rue Vaugirard and in June stayed with Monet in Honfleur, where he met Boudin and Jongkind. On his return to Paris, he learned that he had failed his examinations in Medicine and obtained his parents’ permission to totally devote himself to painting. In 1865 he shared an atelier in Rue Furstenberg with Monet, whom he helped financially. He submitted two works to the Official Salon of 1866, “Girl at the piano” and “Still life with fish”, the latter being accepted. Thereafter he will be regularly admitted to exhibit to the Salon.

In 1866 he shared with Renoir a new studio in Rue Visconti. He then moved to the district of Batignolles, in the Rue de la Condamine, near the Café Guerbois of which he had become a regular patron. It is in this new workshop that he executed in 1870 his painting “Bazille’s Studio, Rue de la Condamine”, where one can see him presenting a new work at Manet and Monet, whereas his friend Maître plays at the piano and Zola is in conversation with Renoir. This painting with an open composition (where Manet himself painted the high silhouette of Bazille) underlines the friendly and good working relationships of the protagonists with no hierarchical order between them.

Pissarro, Cézanne, and sometimes Courbet, visited him in his successive studios. He was also one of the rare persons able to face verbal arguments with erudite and ironic painter Degas, showing of a clear thinking and a realism which one can find in his paintings. The work of Bazille, stopped by his untimely death during the war of 1870, shows new compositions developed with audacity and diversity: open-air portraits with lower panoramic view as in " “The Pink Dress” (1864) or View of the Village of Castelnau-le-Lez” (1868), family scenes as in his large painting “Family Gathering” (1867 – see above), plein-air paintings such as “Summer Scene” (1869) . He particularly applied himself to combine figure painting in the open-air with an intense attention to natural light.

Bazille joined voluntarily and enthusiastically the regiment of the Zouaves just before the war of 1870. He was killed while fighting at Beaune-la-Rolande (close to Orleans) on November 28, 1870, at the age of 29. A number of works of Frédéric Bazille are kept at the Fabre Museum of Montpellier.

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