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Frédéric Bazille

The Digital Catalogue Raisonné

by Michel Schulman
© National Gallery of Art, Washington

Portrait of Edmond Maître

Huile sur toile
83 x 64,2 cm - 32 11/16 x 25 1/4 in.
daté en haut à gauche : F. Bazille 1869
Washington, National Gallery of Art, Etats-Unis - Inv. 1985.64.2
Dernière mise à jour : 2022-03-29 11:30:49
Référence : MSb-48


Edmond Maître, Bordeaux - Léon Maître, son frère - André Bazille, neveu de l'artiste, Montpellier - Mme Jean Rachou, née André Bazille, Montpellier - Paul Mellon, Richmond, Virginie, achat en août 1960 [Wildenstein Gallery, New York] - National Gallery, Washington, 1985 (Don Mellon).


Montpellier, Exposition internationale, 1927, Rétrospective Bazille, n° 25 - Paris, Association des étudiants protestants, 1935, n° 6 - Paris, Palais de Tokyo, 1937, Chefs d'œuvre de l'art français, n° 240 - Montpellier, musée Fabre, 1941, n° 29 - Paris, galerie Wildenstein, 1950, n° 50 - Montpellier, musée Fabre, 1959, n° 34 - Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago, 1978, n° 37, repr. p. 85 - Montpellier, musée Fabre, 1979, Le portrait, n° 57, repr. p. 113 -  Lausanne, musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts, 1985, n° 25, repr. p. 107 - Montpellier, New York, 1992-1993, n° 23, repr. p. 115 - Paris, musée Marmottan Monet, 2003-2004, cat. 21, repr. p. 69 - Montpellier, Paris, Washington, 2016-2017, cat. 51, repr.  p. 247, p. 69 et p. 73 (Détail) [Les références sont du catalogue en français].


Blanche, L'Art vivant, juillet 1927, p. 544, repr. p. 544 - Poulain, Bazille et ses amis, 1932, n° 33, pp. 134-135, 217 - Laprade, Beaux-Arts, 1935, p. 8 - Sarraute, Catalogue de l'œuvre de Frédéric Bazille, 1948, n° 35, pp. 83-85 [Thèse de l'Ecole du Louvre non publiée] - Blanche, La Pêche aux souvenirs, 1949, pp. 123-125 - Daulte, Arts, 9 juin 1950 - Daulte, Bazille et son temps, 1952, n° 47, pp. 45-46, 131, 142-143, 185-186 [Thèse sous la direction de Gaston Poulain] - Daulte, Connaissance des Arts, 1970, p. 90 - Daulte, Cat. exp. The Art Institute of Chicago, 1978, p. 26 - Daulte, Frédéric Bazille : Catalogue raisonné de l'œuvre peint, 1992, n° 52, pp. 69, 127, 134, 137, 176-177 [Réédition de 1952 avec photos en couleur] - Daulte, L'Oeil, avril 1978, repr. p. 37 - Michel, Bazille, 1992, p. 120 - Daulte, Cat. exp. Montpellier, New York, 1992-1993, fig. 28,  repr. p. 60 - Montpellier, New York, 1992-1993, n° 23, repr. p.115  - Bajou, Frédéric Bazille, 1993, p. 135 - Schulman, Frédéric Bazille : Catalogue raisonné, 1995,n° 48, repr. p. 187- Pitman, Bazille : Purity, Pose and Painting in the 1860s, 1998, fig. 123, repr. p. 187 - Hilaire, Jones, Perrin, Cat. exp. Montpellier, Paris, Washington, 2016-2017, cat. 51, repr. p. 247 et p. 69 et 63 (Détail) [Les références sont du catalogue en français] - Schulman, Frédéric Bazille : Catalogue raisonné numérique, 2022, n° 48.

Dissatisfied with his first portrait done in early 1867 - Portrait of Edmond Maître he cut out to keep only the face - Bazille returned to his original idea of painting his friend "from top to bottom". This time, he gives up his usual frontal portrait to depict Edmond Maître in profile, seated in a wide and comfortable armchair. Maître is holding a book in his left hand, a cigar in his right hand resting on the arm of the chair as if he wanted to avoid the smoke. He is reading.

Edmond Maître, serious, grave, is in a dark green suit, white shirt, white polka dot bow, violets in the buttonhole. The straight nose, broad forehead, smooth hair, short beard, and trimmed mustache give the sense of an "admirable figure of a disillusioned intellectual, of a convalescent threatened by the imminence of a relapse, and whose emaciated face, of great pallor, stands out against the swarthy background" [Poulain, 1932, pp. 134-135]. It is indeed a figure in frail health but in possession of all his intellectual means, that Bazille paints here.

Edmond Maître sur le canapé, Auguste Renoir 1871. Private collection
Edmond Maître sur le canapé, Auguste Renoir 1871. Private collection
In a letter to his father dated February 19, 1866, Maître wrote: "I am pleased with ideal things". Then, on March 6, 1869, he clarified, "My whole life is spent in my head, in my daydreams". And this is how he is represented here reading. Employee at the prefecture of the Seine, in the department of Public Instruction and Cults, Maître had other aspirations, literary, artistic and musical, which fascinated him. In his Livre de Raison, his diary, he reveals his character and shows the gap between his professional activity and his intimate life: "Sufficient leisure, absolutely silly salaried occupation... Holding myself in reserve for my friends and for myself, tasting a secret pleasure in despising what makes the care of other men, I let the world go and disgorge the fools" [Daulte, 1992, pp. 33-35]. This portrait is full of the dreams of which he speaks, that of an elegant, refined but, in the end, solitary man. Maître carries the distinction within him, and it is the psychological interest that, according to Marandel, inspires Bazille here.

Far from Frédéric Bazille at Saint-Sauveur yet executed around the same time, this portrait rather resembles, in technique and tone, Frédéric Bazille with a Palette. Bazille indeed employs dark backgrounds "of an even and muted tone" [Daulte, 1992, p. 137] to bring out the essential aspects of his character. In both cases, the lighting illuminates the face, contrasting with the dark masses of the backgrounds and the dark clothes. Two tones oppose each other here while harmonizing. The browns of the blanket on the knees, the browns of the armchair and the cigar blend with the dark green of the jacket, the bow and even the hair. The small bouquet of violets at the buttonhole is a delicate touch that completes the psychological portrait of Maître.

The drawing is everywhere precise. In the Portrait of Edmond Maître, Bazille keeps his distance from a possible graphic interpretation that could distort the image of his friend. In its technique - precise contours, smooth material, contrasts of light and shadow - this painting is closer than any other to certain works by Degas such as the Portrait d'Evariste de Valernes [Musée d'Orsay, Paris, 1865].

We know of their friendship, which began in 1865. It was based on their shared passion for music and painting. Thus they had common paths, forsaking their studies - medicine for Bazille, law for Maître - in order to follow their passions: art and music. This is why one can find in this Portrait of Edmond Maître a personal note absent from other portraits of Bazille.

Related Works

Oeuvre en rapport
Portrait d'Edmond Maître - Huile sur toile - 36 x 28 cm - Collection particulière (MSb-28)