The flowers of Frédéric Bazille’s last summer

 

 

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Young Woman with Peonies and detail, Spring 1870, oil on canvas. 

Frédéric Bazille, 1841-1870, French.  National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

 

Peonies, Winterthur, May 2014-02

Peony, 2014 and ever year, Winterthur, Delaware, flowers, by his own evidence, being the greatest of Henry Francis Dupont’s loves.

 

 

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Detail of Young Woman with Peonies, Spring 1870, oil on canvas (with apologies for the light intereference).

Frédéric Bazille, 1841-1870, French.  National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC 

 

 The National Gallery notes that these two paintings are thought to be a homage to Édouard Manet’s love and cultivation of peonies and a reference to the flowers brought to the reclining female nude by a black slave in Manet’s ‘Olympia’ of 1863, exhibited in 1865 to a reception of large scandal.

 

 

Peonies, Winterthur, May 2014-03

Peony, 2014 and every year, Winterthur, Delaware, flowers, by his own evidence, being the greatest of Henry Francis Dupont’s loves

 

 

In August 1870, Frédéric Bazille signed up with the Zouaves, against the wishes of his family, to fight in the Franco-Prussian war (July 1870 – January 1871). 

He was killed at Beaune-la-Rolande on November 28, 1870 not long before his 29th birthday.

In the seven years of his artistic career,  Frédéric Bazille produced a celebrated oeuvre which is here represented by a few paintings.  

 

DSC00412DSC00413DSC00414The Family Gathering (also called Family Portraits) and detail, 1867, oil on canvas.  

Frédéric Bazille, 1841-1870, French.  Musée d’Orsay, Paris on loan in 2017 to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.

 

The artist is on the extreme left.

  His mother is seated in all blue on the left next to his father.  They and other close family members are shown at the family house in Méric, near Montpellier. 

The painting was included in the Paris Salon of 1868 but passed unnoticed except for favourable commentary from Émile Zola. 

 

 

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The Terrace at Méric and detail, summer 1866-late winter 1877, oil on canvas. Frédéric Bazille, 1841-1870, French. 

On loan to the National Gallery, Washington, DC in 2017 by the Association des Amis du Petit Palais, Geneva

 

A friend and colleague of Monet, Manet, Renoir and Alfred Sisley, a sometime financial supporter of Manet, acquainted with Cezanne and his work,  Bazille’s work is considered to be a forerunner of  Impressionism;

in its anteroom; on the cusp of; on its lip. 

 

 

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The Studio on the Rue La Condamine and detail, oil on canvas, 1865. Frédéric Bazille, 1841-1870.   Musée Fabre, Montpellier, France on loan to the National Gallery, Washington, DC in 2017.

 

 Frédéric Bazille shared this studio with Renoir after moving to the Batignolles district of Paris in 1868.  Paintings of Monet and Renoir are on the walls.  

From the extreme left:  Renoir (presumed), Monet, the critic Zacharie Astruc, Manet wearing a hat.  Bazille (painted by Manet) is seen looking at the easel.  At the piano is a close friend of Bazille’s,  Edmond Maître.  

 

 

On the wall behind Monet standing on the stairs, this painting:

 

 

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Fisherman with a net, summer 1868, oil on canvas.

 Frédéric Bazille,1841-1870, French.  Arp Museum Bahnhof Rolandseck/ Sammlung RAO fur UNICEF, Ramagen on loan to the National Gallery, Washington, DC in 2017

 

 

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Summer Scene (Bathers) and detail, 1869-1870, oil on canvas.  

Frédéric Bazille,1841-1870, French.  Harvard Art Museum/Fogg Museum, Cambridge on loan to the National Gallery, Washington DC in 2017

 

 

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Pierre Auguste Renoir and detail, 1867, oil on canvas. Frédéric Bazille,1841-1870, French.

Loaned to the National Gallery of Art in 2017 by Musée d’Orsay, Paris (loaned long term to Musée Fabre, Montpellier, France).

 

 

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Pierre Auguste Renoir,  1868-1869, oil on canvas.  Frédéric Bazille, 1841-1870, French.  Musée d’Orsay on loan in 2017 to the National Gallery, Washington DC.

 

 

Claude Monet’s Women in the Garden painted in 1866, rejected by the Paris Salon of 1867 and bought by Bazille on installment, is thought to be a source for Bazille’s 1867 painting of his family. 

 

 

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Women in the Garden and detail, 1866, oil on canvas.  Claude Monet, 1840-1926.

  Musee d’Orsay, Paris on loan to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC in 2017

 

 

 

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View of the Village (Castelnau-le-Lez) and detail, 1868 oil on canvas. Accepted for exhibition in the Salon of 1870, the year of the artist’s death.  Frédéric Bazille, 1841-1870, French.

Loaned to the National Gallery, Washington, DC by the Musée Fabre, Montpellier in 2017

 

 

Self Portrait with Palette, 1865, oil on canvas.  Frédéric Bazille, 1841-1870, French.

 The Art Institute of Chicago on loan to the National Gallery, Washington DC in 2017

 

 

Portrait of Frédéric Bazille at the Farm of Saint-Siméon, 1864, oil on panel. Claude Monet, 1840-1926, French. 

Musée Fabre, Montpellier, loaned to the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC in 2017

 

 

Claude Monet, one year younger than Frédéric Bazille, lived, of course, until his eighty-seventh year and died in 1926. 

 

As is known, the great luxury of the last years of his life were the flowers in his garden at Giverny.

Along the banks of the pond at Giverny, in which he planted waterlilies, Monet also planted, among other plants, agapanthus, a flower native to southern Africa whose very name derives from the Greek words for ‘love’ and ‘flower’.

 

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No photograph that I take can do justice to an experience of Claude Monet’s mural triptych, Waterlilies, 1914-1926,  oil on canvas.

 Claude Monet, 1840-1926, French.  MOMA, New York.  

 

 

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Agapanthus and detail, 1914-1926, oil on canvas.  Claude Monet, 1840-1926, French.  MOMA, New York

 

 

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The Japanese Footbridge and the Water Lily Pool, Giverny, 1899, oil on canvas.   Claude Monet, 1840-1926, French.  Philadelphia Art Museum

 

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The Japanese Footbridge, 1920-22, oil on canvas. Claude Monet, 1840-1926, French.  MOMA, New York

 Among the last of a series of paintings begun 25 years prior of the bridge at Giverny with a combination of colours noted by the museum as rare in this artist’s work

 

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Waterlilies, Japanese Footbridge and detail, 1918-1926, oil on canvas.   Claude Monet, 1840-1926, French.  Philadelphia Art Museum

 

 

As is known, the joint and separate work and life histories of these artists, with those of others also, speak to the discipline, skill, tenacity and courage  with which they confronted the art establishment of their day, deviated from the traditional norms of their art and craft  and expanded our perception of the world.

 

And not the least courageous among them,  Frédéric Bazille who, having produced masterpieces in his short career of seven years, having participated with his friends and colleagues in the work of this extraordinay period in the history of Western art,

  submitted his life to another fate.

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