Frédéric Bazille (1841-1870)

Born into a protestant banking family in Montpellier, Bazille was a contemporary of Cézanne, born in 1839, of Monet, born in 1840, and of Renoir, born in 1841.

A friend of painters

  • Frédéric Bazille (1841-1870), peintre impressionniste
    Frédéric Bazille (1841-1870), impressionist painter © Collection privée

Frédéric Bazille abandoned his medical studies in spite of his family’s disapproval and settled in Paris in 1862. He became fascinated by art after first discovering it at his neighbour’s, Alfred Bruyas, a keen art collector.

He created strong friendships with young painters of his generation, and, like them, he passionately admired Delacroix, Courbet and the painters of the innovating Barbizon School. He studied at the studio of Gleyre, then at the Académie Suisse ( The Swiss Academy), where he met Pissaro and Guillaumin.

Thanks to his family he enjoys a comfortable income, and is extremely generous with his fellow painters, constantly and discreetly offering to help them.

A brief career, cut short by death

  • F. Bazille, les lauriers roses
    F. Bazille, the oleanders © Collection privée

Bazille is more sensitive to the vivid colours of his native Languedoc, with its strong lines and luminous shadows than he is to the wet skies of the Ile de France and Normandy. Most of his outdoor paintings are set there, and though the rendering of the figures remains traditional, the latter are bathed in the bright southern light.

For some, Bazille is an impressionist – typical of his Huguenot and south of France origins – whose vision does not obey the first impact of the senses, but judges it, reasons with it and conveys to the figures the unforgettable feeling of Time recovered.

La Réunion de Famille – 1867-1868 (The Family reunion) is one of his best-known paintings, and is exhibited at the Montpellier Museum. Its setting is the terrace at Méric, the family estate. It shows a group of Protestants from Montpellier, all of whom have been identified.

Like all new adepts of outdoor figural art, Bazille was not admitted to exhibit at official Salons. With them, and as early as 1867, he was planning an independent exhibition which was to take place only in 1874. He never carried out the project as he joined the Army as a volunteer for the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71 and was killed at Beaune-la-Rolande in November 1870.

Notes to be discovered

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