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Frédéric Bazille

French Painter

Frédéric Bazille Photo
Movements and Styles: Realism, Impressionism

Born: December 5, 1841 - Montepellier, Hérault, Languedoc-Roussillon, France

Died: November 28, 1870 - Beaune-la-Rolande, France

"The big classical compositions are finished; an ordinary view of daily life would be much more interesting."

Frédéric Bazille Signature

Summary of Frédéric Bazille

Frédéric Bazille had both exquisite timing and terrible luck. He was one of a group of radical, iconoclastic artists in early 1860s Paris - Manet, Monet, and Renoir among them - to turn the artistic establishment upside down with their revolutionary new approach to painting. Manet was something of a mentor and certainly a good friend to Bazille. Bazille received only a relatively limited amount of formal academic artistic instruction but his close alliances with fellow artists, including sharing studios with the likes of Renoir, Sisley, and Monet, helped shape his style. His paintings were just as often accepted as refused by the official Salon and, while he adopted some of the techniques and formal qualities of the Impressionist style, his work remained Realist except in the realm of subject matter. He was a pioneer in creating compositional strategies for situating human figures in outdoor settings and integrating them with the atmospheric effects of a given locale. He worked often in his studio but was also an advocate of painting en plein air, which Monet had encouraged him to do from early on. Bazille received positive support from important critics of the day and his career was taking very promising shape when he was killed just before his 29th birthday in a battle during the Franco-Prussian War.

Key Ideas

Bazille is regarded as one of the innovators of the Impressionist style even though he never exhibited his work with other members of the group. The first Impressionist exhibition took place in 1874, almost four years after his death and not one work by Bazille was displayed at the show. Despite being directly associated with important Impressionists like Monet and Renoir, his style was far more that of a Realist, sharing common formal features with the art of Courbet and Manet's earlier, pre-Impressionist paintings.
Bazille had been encouraged by his good friend Monet to go outside to paint rather than confining himself to his studio. Together the two painters went to the countryside, often accompanied by other artists, so that they could paint in nature or en plein air. It was in his efforts to successfully integrate the human figure into a modern, Impressionist landscape where Bazille moved into more radical artistic terrain. In Bazille's harmonious, modernist compositions, the figure, whether nude or clothed registered the effects of light and other atmospheric phenomena like the other objects in the picture. While he incorporated modern compositional strategies such as unusual cropping that mimicked the cropping of a photograph and vantage points at extreme angles, Bazille's painting style, which could sometimes appear less restrained if not loose and varied like the brushstrokes of the Impressionist style, was much more controlled. Contours tended to be sharply defined, surfaces smooth and highly finished, and his palette was typically darker than that of most Impressionist works.
Frédéric Bazille Photo

Frédéric Bazille, born Jean-Frédéric, was born into a wealthy family with ancient roots in the South of France. He was born on the family's estate, Meric, outside of Montpellier on December 5th (some sources say the 6th) in 1841. The Bazille family had settled in the area at least as early as the 13th century. He came from a family of artisans, including an 18th-century ancestor who was a master arquebusier, "a renowned weapons specialist and producer of luxury works of art ... who worked for the king." Eventually, the family channeled their artisanal skills into goldsmithing with which they earned a reputation for excellence as well as their fortune. One of the family treasures, which had eventually made its way to his mother, Camille Vialars Bazille, was a famously beautiful and extravagant ring "of diamonds with seven rosette stones" designed by Daniel Bazille in 1720.

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