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Frédéric Bazille

The Digital Catalogue Raisonné

by Michel Schulman
© Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minneapolis

Landscape on the Banks of the Lez

Huile sur toile
137,2 x 200,7 cm - 54 x 79 in.
Signé et daté en bas à gauche : F. Bazille, 1870
Minneapolis, Minneapolis Institute of Art, Etats-Unis - Inv. 69.23
Dernière mise à jour : 2022-03-25 09:09:47
Référence : MSb-68


Famille de l’artiste, Montpellier - Marc Bazille, frère de l’artiste - Frédéric Bazille, neveu de l’artiste - Galerie Louis Carré, Paris - Galerie Wildenstein, Paris - Walter P. Chrysler - The Minneapolis Institute of Art, 1969 (Special Arts Reserve Fund).


Montpellier, Exposition internationale, 1927, Rétrospective Bazille, n° 31 - Montpellier, musée Fabre, 1941, n° 38 - Paris, galerie Louis Carré, 1945, Paysages de France - Paris, galerie Wildenstein, 1950, n° 66 - La Nouvelle Orélans, Isaac Delgado Museum of Art, 1954, Masterpieces of French Paintings through Five Centuries, n° 71 - Dayton, Dayton Art Institute, 25 mars-22 mai 1960, French Paintings 1789-1929 from the Collection of Walter P. Chrysler Jr., n° 53 - Minneapolis, Minneapolis Institute of Art, 1969, The Past Rediscovered : French Paintings  1800-1900, n° 1(a) - Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago, 1978, n° 59, repr. p. 119 - Paris, Grand Palais, 1994, Impressionnisme. Les origines 1859-1874, n° 15, pp. 337-338, repr. pl. 100 - New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1994-1995 |La même exposition - Les références sont du catalogue en français] - Montpellier, Grenoble, 2007-2008 [s.n.] - Minneapolis, Londres, 2015-2016, n° 77, repr. p. 244 [Exposé à Minneapolis seulement] - Montpellier, Paris, Washington, 2016-2017, cat. 65, repr. p. 256 et vp. 184 [Les références sont du catalogue en français].


Poulain, La Renaissance de l'art et des industries de luxe, 1927, p. 170 - Poulain, Bazille et ses amis, 1932, n° 43, pp. 181, 220 - Descossy, Montpellier, berceau de l'impressionnisme, 1933, p. 27 - Poulain, L'Art et les artistes, juin 1934, pp. 317-318  - Sarraute, Catalogue de l'oeuvre de Frédéric Bazille, 1948, n° 41, pp. 99-100 [Thèse de l'Ecole du Louvre non publiée] - Cayeux, Réforme,  24 juin 1950 - Daulte, Bazille et son temps, 1952, n° 55, p. 113, 189 (repr.) [Thèse sous la direction de Gaston Poulain] - Daulte, Connaissance des Arts, déc. 1970, n° 226, p. 87, repr. p. 86 - European Paintings from the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 1971, pp. 193-194 - Marandel, Cat. exp. The Art Institute of Chicago, 1978, n° 59, repr. p. 119 - Brettell, Apollo, mars 1983, p. 242 (ill. 12) - Daulte, Frédéric Bazille : Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint, 1992, p. 105 (repr. coul.), p. 112 et p. 182, n° 63 (repr.) [Réédition de 1952 avec photos en couleur] - Michel, Bazille, 1992, p. 243 - Jourdan, Cat. exp. Montpellier, New York, 1992-1993, fig. 1, repr. p. 12 - Bajou, Frédéric Bazille, 1993, p. 168 (repr.) - Tinterow, Cat. exp. Paris, New York, 1994-1995, n° 15 - Schulman, Frédéric Bazille : Catalogue raisonné, 1995, n° 68, repr. p. 224 - Pitman, 1998, Bazille : Purity, Pose and Painting in the 1860s, p. 201-205 - Vermont, Valeurs de l'Art, mars-avril 2000, Hommage à Bazille, repr. p. 45 - Hilaire, Cat. exp. Montpellier, Grenoble, 2007-2008, L'impressionnisme de France et d'Amérique, p. 46 - Noon, Riopelle, Cat. exp. Minneapolis, Londres, 2015-2016, n° 77, repr. p. 244 - Hilaire, Jones, Perrin, Cat. exp. Montpellier, Paris, Washington, 2016-2017, cat. 65, repr. p. 256 et p.184 [Les références sont du catalogue en français] - Schulman, Frédéric Bazille : Catalogue raisonné numérique, 2022, n° 68.

While the tone rises between France and Prussia, Bazille finds himself as he does every year in Montpellier to spend the Summer with his family. 1870 was a fruitful year. The Landscape on the Banks of the Lez which closely follow the versions of the paintings Young Woman with Peonies and Young Woman with Peonies [Previously Négresse aux pivoines] clearly mark Bazille's evolution, his hesitations between a classicism he never disavowed and impulses to give his painting new forms.

There are two sides to Bazille's personality, and they are offered to us together in these few works: his attachment to the great traditions, but also his open-mindedness toward the future, his sympathy for all those who implement new theories.

The Landscape on the Banks of the Lez, which is said to be  Bazille's last painting, remains in the straight line of classicism. We are very close to the river. In the center of the painting, stretching toward a hill in the background, is a vast plain burned by the Languedoc sun. On the stony hill, a thin vegetation. On each side of this plain, large emaciated trees, with trunks that are sometimes straight, sometimes tormented. In the foreground, on the right, we notice an old stone wall at the bottom of a ravine.

Through this vegetation shines a blue sky where a few white and pink clouds stretch. "It is the sunlight that composes the landscape as in a classical painting," writes Daulte, who adds that "[...] in the Landscape on the Banks of the Lez, it draws by the play of shadows and light the depth of the plain, the undulation of the peeled hills, the trees with their fine silhouettes." This is obviously its role in this Languedoc landscape. It brings to mind the Landscape at Chailly of 1865 although it is more subdued, less violent, and is closer, in this respect, to the light of The Terrace at Méric. One does not fail to be a little surprised by this clarity which is not frankly blinding as it is most of the time in the South. This explains why Daulte speaks of the "contained lyricism of the Languedoc artist" and "a serene orderliness, reminiscent of Poussin and announcing Cézanne" [Daulte, 1992, p. 112].

Poulain brings the the Landscape on the Banks of the Lez closer not only to Poussin but also to Le Lorrain, and it is certain that the influence of the seventeenth century on this painting is clearly felt. Never before had Bazille achieved such a classical feeling in his landscapes. Here, the composition and technique are wise and applied and even generate a certain monotony. Bazille gives little room to stylistic interpretation, to the ardor of the brushstroke and to the overflow of colors. In the background, far away, a small mountain and, on the right on a hill, some trees. At the bottom right, a dog lying down, barely visible, is a surprising presence in this landscape. The explanation may come from Sarraute who thinks that Bazille intended to place characters in this peaceful meadow. The presence of the dog gives force to this hypothesis. We know from a letter written by Bazille around June 20, 1870, that he had begun work on "a large landscape that is beginning to take shape. Then, on August 2, he wrote to Edmond Maître that he had "finished about a large landscape". No doubt the war prevented him from completing this painting. Bazille, in this same letter, unknowingly brings a moving conclusion to his life as an artist: "You see that this year I will shine at least by the quality of my works. Three weeks later, giving up his palette, colors and easel, he left for the war.

Banks of the river Lez in the 19th century
Banks of the river Lez in the 19th century
It is surprising, however, the "turn" Bazille took at a time when his career, style, and subjects took a different turn. The strong influence of Manet in Bazille's last works led us to believe that he had definitely embraced the causes of Impressionism. Hence the legitimate astonishment as regards Bazille coming back to a more classical formula that Poussin and Le Lorrain and later Castelnau, Loubon and Guigou could not deny. Hilaire rightly recalls Bazille's visceral attachment to these gaunt, "austere and bare" landscapes marked by an affirmed Protestantism. As Hilaire describes it in the 2016-2017 exhibition catalogue, this is a "grandiose scenography" [Hilaire, p. 189] that interrupts a hopeful life. With this painting, eternal questions will forever hang over the head of young Frédéric.

The Lez flows peacefully and discreetly in the distance at the foot of the hill. Here, it is more a stream than a river. From the photos we got, there were quite a few activities going on there. Which leads us to believe that this is an upstream landscape.