drapeau français english flag
logo catalogue Bazille
Frédéric Bazille

The Digital Catalogue Raisonné

by Michel Schulman
© Musée d'Orsay, dist. RMN-Grand Palais/Patrice Schmitt

The Improvised Field Hospital

Huile sur toile
47 x 62 cm - 19 x 25 1/2 in.
Paris, Musée d'Orsay, France - Inv. RF 1967-5
Dernière mise à jour : 2022-04-03 06:23:21
Référence : MSb-17


Peint à Chailly à l’auberge du Lion d’Or en août 1865 - Famille de l’artiste - Marc Bazille, frère de l’artiste - Mme Meynier de Salinelles, sa fille - Mme Penchinat de Salinelles - Vente Paris, Palais Galliéra, 14 juin 1967 (Préempté par les musées nationaux), non numéroté - Paris, musée d’Orsay, 1986.


Paris, Grand Palais, 1910, Rétrospective Bazille, n° 2 - Paris, Palais du Louvre, Pavillon de Marsan, 1922, Le décor de la vie sous le Second Empire, n° 20 - Montpellier, Exposition internationale, 1927, Rétrospective Bazille, n° 4 - Paris, Association des étudiants protestants, 1935, n° 1, pl. 1 (repr.) - Grenoble, musée-bibliothèque, 1936, Centenaire de Fantin-Latour, n° 506 - Paris, galerie des Beaux-Arts, 1937, Naissance de l’impressionnisme, n° 54 - Montpellier, musée Fabre, 1941, n° 15, repr. p. 6 - Paris, galerie Wildenstein, 1950, n° 17, pl. 1 - Montpellier, musée Fabre, 1959, n° 10 - Paris, Palais Galliéra, 1967, Deux œuvres importantes de Bazille (repr.) - Paris, musée de l'Orangerie, 1967-1968, Vingt ans d’acquisitions au musée du Louvre, n° 400 - Turin, Galleria civica d’arte moderna, 1973, Art et photographie - Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago, 1978, n° 15, repr. p. 52 - Tokyo, musée national d’Art occidental, 1982, Tendances du réalisme en France, n° 29 - Antibes, musée Picasso; Toulouse, musée des Augustins; Lyon, musée des Beaux-Arts, 1985, Orsay avant Orsay, n° 3, repr. coul. p. 29 - Jourdan, Vuatone, Catalogue exp. Montpellier, New York, 1992-1993, n° 10, repr. p. 90 - Washington, National Gallery, 2008, n° 7 (repr.) - Bâle, Kunstmuseum, 2012, n° 51, repr. p. 251 - Montpellier, Paris, Washington, 2016-2017, cat. 16, repr. p. 230 et p. 29 [Les références sont du catalogue en français].


Henriot, Gazette des Beaux-Arts, juillet-août 1922 - Spalikowski, Comœdia, 23 déc. 1926, p. 3 (repr.) - Poulain, Bazillle et ses amis, 4 janv. 1927, p. 2 - Poulain, La Renaissance de l'art français et des industries de luxe, n° 4, avril 1927 (repr.) - Poulain,  ABC magazine, mai 1927, p. 118, (repr.) - Focillon, La peinture aux XIXe et XXe siècles, 1928, p. 212 - Poulain, Bazille et ses amis, 1932, n° 11, pp. 54-57, 213 - Laprade, Beaux-Arts, 29 mars 1935 - Colombier, Candide, 4 avril 1935, p. 8 - Schmidt, Le Semeur, juin 1935 - Bouyer, Revue de l'art ancien et moderne, mai 1935, repr. p. 205 - Bazin, L'Amour de l'Art, avril 1935, p. 143 - Scheyer, Art Quarterly, printemps 1942, p. 120 - Guérif, A la recherche d'une esthétique protestante, 1943, p. 30 - Gazette des Beaux Arts, février 1968, repr. p. 18 - Wildenstein, Arts, 9 juin 1950 - Daulte, Arts, 24 juin 1950 - Romane-Musculus, 24 juin 1950 - Daulte,  Bazille et son temps, 1952, n° 14, pp. 48, 131, 144 et p. 172 (repr.) - Jardin des Arts, octobre 1959 (repr.) - Courthion, Autour de l'impressionisme, 1964, p. 23 - Gazette des Beaux-Arts, fév. 1968, n° 64, p. 18 (repr.) - Trêves, Le peintre, 1er oct. 1969 - Blunden, Journal de l'Impressionnisme, 1970, p. 60 (repr.) - Daulte, Connaissance des Arts, déc. 1970, n° 226, p. 90 - Isaacson, Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe, 1972, p. 25, pl. 9 (repr.) - Bouret, L'Ecole de Barbizon et le paysage français du XIXe siècle, 1972, p. 236, repr. coul. p. 237 et notice p. 247 - Rewald, Histoire de l'Impressionnisme, 1973, p. 120 - 1976, p. 158, repr. p. 161, pl. 83 - Champa, Studies in Early Impressionism, 1973, fig. 10, p. 82 et fig. 40, p. 82 - Adhémar, La Revue du Louvre et des musées de France, 1973, Dernières acquisitions, n° 14, 4/5, repr. p. 298 - Wildenstein, Cat. raisonné Claude Monet, 1974, p. 28, n° 179, p. 30 et n° 196 - Bellony-Rewald, Le monde retrouvé des Impressionnistes, 1977, pp. 46-47, repr. coul. p. 40 - Adhémar, Distel, Catmusée du Jeu de Paume, 1977, repr. p. 12 - Marandel, Cat. exp. The Art Institute of Chicago, 1978, n° 15, repr. p. 53 - Schulze, Art in America, sept-oct. 1978, n° 5 - Adhémar, Dayez, Musée du Jeu de Paume, 1983, p. 124 - Bonafoux, Impressionnistes. Portraits et Confidences, 1986, p. 48 - Mathieu, Musée d'Orsay Guide, 1986 - Compin, Roquebert, Catalogue sommaire illustré des peintures du musée du Louvre et du musée d'Orsay, 1986, t. III, p. 49 - Bonafoux, Connaissance des Arts, janv. 1987, pp. 28-35, repr. p. 32 - Rosenblum, Les peintres du musée d'Orsay, 1989, repr. p. 226 - Daulte, Frédéric Bazille : Catalogue raisonné de l'œuvre peint,  1992, n° 15, pp. 38, 40, 127, 138 et p. 159 (repr.) [Réédition de 1952 avec photos en couleur] - Michel, Bazille, 1992, p. 113 - Pitman, Cat. exp. Montpellier, New York, 1992-1993, n° 10,  pp. 90-91 - Bajou, Frédéric Bazille, 1993, p. 114 (repr.) - Adams, L'Ecole de Barbizon : aux sources de l'Impressionnisme, 1994, p. 205, pl. 149 - Schulman, Frédéric Bazille : Catalogue raisonné, 1995, n° 17, repr. p. 127 - Champa, Pitman, Cat. exp. Atlanta, High Museum, 1999, fig. 16, repr. p. 39 et fig. 40, repr. p. 82 - Hilaire, Jones, Perrin, Cat. exp. Montpellier, Paris, Washington, 2016-2017, cat. 26, repr. p. 230  [Les références sont du catalogue en français] - Schulman, Frédéric Bazille : Catalogue raisonné numérique, 2022, n° 17.

The Improvised Field Hospital, which chronologically follows The Pink Dress, is relatively small in terms of its size but large in terms of the place it occupies in the history of the Impressionist movement. The number of exhibitions in which it has been shown reflects the curiosity and interest that it has always aroused for this reason. The national museums have not been outdone, since they pre-acquired it in 1976. Today at the Orsay Museum, it stands alongside the greatest works of Monet, Manet, Sisley and Renoir, to name but a few.

Its interest is threefold. First, it is anecdotic, something rare in Bazille; second, it is pictorial because of its realism; and third, it is historical because it is a testimony to the beginnings of Impressionism.

The Improvised Field Hospital is first of all an anecdote. It is the Summer of 1865. Monet is staying at Chailly with the plan to do his Déjeuner sur l'herbe. Unfortunately, he is, as usual, without money and cannot afford models. But his painting must represent several characters; that is why he asks Bazille to come and pose for him. However, Bazille was slow to come, and Monet wrote to him on August 16: "I am in despair, I fear that you will make me miss my painting and it would be very bad for you after having promised to come and pose". Finally, Bazille arrived on August 19. The family tradition tells what happened next: Monet was injured in the leg while trying to protect children from a heavy metal puck thrown by clumsy Englishmen. There is no written record of this accident. Neither Bazille nor Monet refer to it in their correspondence, so we must rely on this family tradition.

Monet had to lie in bed for a few days at the Auberge du Lion d'Or at Chailly. In this somewhat sad room, it is assumed that Bazille, thanks to his medical knowledge, organized the care and comfortably installed his injured friend. Above him, he placed a kind of basin which let fall on his leg a refreshing and probably decongesting drip. At the foot of the bed, a zinc or tin bucket and a glazed bowl are waiting to be used by the injured man. The scene is banal in the grand scheme of things, but this painting, which has sometimes been called Monet blessé, bears witness, like the Déjeuner sur l'herbe, to the friendship that bound the two men together. Monet is lying on a large wooden bed over which large curtains hang as if to give the room, its basic furnishings and somewhat sad decoration, a certain intimacy. He is wearing a large white shirt with long sleeves. A thick blanket has been placed under his bruised leg. Under his head, a huge pillow adds to his comfort; Monet plunges his young face into it, from which "moustache and imperial fly on the chin" point out. Everything here suggests reality: the wood of the bed with its veins, the floor tiles, the tapestry with its skillfully imitated floral decoration, the two containers at the foot of the bed, the bedside table on which is placed a pretty vase of flowers, and even the watch which merges with the tapestry and is barely noticeable above the vase. Everything is arranged to hide, as Wildenstein says, "the misery of an inn room" [Wildenstein, Arts, June 9, 1950, p. 8]. The realism also comes from the material and the harmony of the tones. On the brown background of the tomettes, the wall paper and the wood of the bed, the sheets stand out, which a nervous and thick touch makes even more real. Here we find this liveliness and strength of touch that underlines the left sleeve of the shirt in Frédéric Bazille with a Palette. "Neither a white nor a black distorts by an excessive value the harmony of this havana atmosphere", Gaston Poulain points out [Poulain, 1932, p. 56]. It is true that Bazille avoided the use of raw whites and blacks that Manet practiced. Along with the roses of the bruised leg, the only real spots of color are those of Monet's face, the bowl at the foot of the bed, and finally the pillow. Bazille likes to show these reminders of color that provide a kind of visual comfort and rest.

Can we talk about an influence in The Improvised Field Hospital? This kind of subject matter was not one favored by the Impressionists or other nineteenth-century French masters. Nevertheless, it is found in Evariste de Valernes's La Convalescente and Charles-François Eustache's Vue d'intérieur.

Some, such as Schmidt and Bazin have established a relationship between this painting and Protestantism. Bazin emphasizes "that feeling of solitude of being peculiar to the Protestant soul" [Bazin, L'Amour de l'Art, April 1935, p. 143]; Schmidt discerns in Bazille's "most Protestant painting... an artistic consciousness of the rarest quality" [Schmidt, Le Semeur, Paris, 1935]. But if there is to be any religious or theological explanation for Bazille's work, it is surely not The Improvised Field Hospital that makes it evident. The character's solitude is not really a solitude. Monet is not lonely since he is in fact watching Bazille painting him, and seems to be talking to him. Indirectly, it is thus to us that he speaks and Monet is as present as possible. Finally, The Improvised Field Hospital relates to the history of Impressionism at its origins. For this reason, it appears in most of the works  and books devoted to this period and rightly finds its place today among the important works in the Orsay Museum.

The Grande-rue at Chailly. Left : the auberge du Cheval blanc.Farther to the right, the hôtel du Lion d'Or
The Grande-rue at Chailly. Left : the auberge du Cheval blanc.Farther to the right, the hôtel du Lion d'Or
The location of The Improvised Field Hospital, however, is not certain. The Auberge du Lion d'Or at Chailly has always been mentioned, but on the other side of the main street of the village stands the Auberge du Cheval Blanc - still there - where a room with floor tiles identical to those in Bazille's painting still exist. In light of this information, isn't it time to change the story of the painting? For lack of certainty, we thought it would be interesting to put forward the hypothesis today.

"The painting does not show significant changes in composition, which is confirmed by X-rays", do we read in the catalogue of the 2016-2017 exhibition [Jones, p. 230], which then emphasizes its "frankness" of execution.