Inspired in part by Eugène Delacroix, one of the founders of the French Romantic school, Frédéric Bazille (1841-1870) was a French Impressionist painter. He originally studied medicine and indeed completed his studies. However, he never practiced medicine, choosing painting instead. He was close friends with Monet, Sisley and Manet. I will today speak about three paintings of his which I enjoy, starting with The Little Gardener.
This is an oil on canvas landscape painting. This is a lovely, serene isolated scene. The pink Rhododendron or peony tree in the background echoes the main piece in today’s review, below. The pine tree is magnificent in the background. The landscaped garden itself is quote stunningly arranged. The young man to the left is tending to the garden with care. The shading on his trousers is done very well. I so enjoy seeing individual brush stroked as well. All together this is just a delightful piece.
This wonderful painting was produced in 1870, a few months before the outbreak of the Franco Prussian war, where Bazille would die. It was in a way a tribute to Manet, who would grow peonies in his garden. I love this painting. The colours are so vivid, the shading is exemplary throughout, especially on the young woman’s face. The panoply of colours is excellently presented. I also very much enjoy the almost scornful look on the young woman’s face. Her eyes seem to be telling us off for interrupting her at work. Hands are notoriously difficult to render and I think Bazille has done an excellent job here. See also the wonderfully rendered fabric of her frock. Overall, this is a very skilfully depicted scene.
One of Bazille’s more famous pieces, La Toilette (meaning one’s washing ritual in French, as well as the more obvious direct translation of a toilet itself) depicts a scene of three women washing. Bazille’s doctoral background are on show here. Notice the large goitre on the neck of the woman in the right of the picture. This was the result of a thyroid disease common in the late 19th century. The shading and lighting of this woman’s silk dress are wonderfully rendered. Central to the painting is French model Lise Tréhot. Tréhot was the main muse of Renoir between 1866 and 1872. She appears in most of his works depicting females. In this painting, Tréhot is being tended to and looks very comfortable on the large fur throw upon which she is seated. Her maid is painted quite beautifully. Again, I must highlight the lighting and shade depictions as being really quite remarkable. Interestingly, this painting, unfinished, can be seen on the wall in the centre ground of Bazille’s studio in his 1870 painting Studio in Rue de La Condamine.
“La toillete” oil on canvas was finished in 1870 just before Bazille’s death (Fig. 1). It presents a French art model Lise Trehot, but for us more interesting is a mysterious woman on the right side. We see clearly large, smooth goiter. No eye signs, but slim woman’s stature does not help with differentiation between simple goiter and Graves’ disease. Historically, goiter seems to be “older” disease (i.e., paintings of Flemish or Italian Renaissance painters) but this question will be unanswered – La Toilette”. When a doctor becomes a painter: Frederic Bazille
Overall I have been most impressed by Bazille’s works and may indeed be reviewing more of them in more detail in the coming weeks. I hope you, too, have enjoyed these four paintings.