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Frédéric Bazille

The Digital Catalogue Raisonné

by Michel Schulman
© Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge

Summer Scene

Huile sur toile
161 x 160,7 cm - 63 x 63 1/4 in.
Signé et daté en bas à gauche : F. Bazille, 1869
Cambridge (USA), Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Etats-Unis - Inv. 1937-78
Dernière mise à jour : 2022-03-29 07:01:34
Référence : MSb-55


Famille de l’artiste, Montpellier - Mme Meynier de Salinelles - Don au Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, en 1937.


Paris, Palais de l’industrie, 1870, Salon de 1870, n° 163 - Paris, Grand Palais, 1910, Rétrospective Bazille, n° 19 - Montpellier, Exposition internationale 1927, n° 23 - Paris, galerie des Beaux-Arts, 1937, Naissance de l’impressionnisme, n° 55 - Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, 1937, Modern French Painting - New York, 1940,  World’s Fair, n° 32 - Paris, galerie Wildenstein, 1950, n° 46 (repr.) - Boston, Symphony Hall, 24 mars-24 avril 1959, French Art of the 19th Century - New Haven, Yale University Art Gallery, 12 oct.-3 déc. 1967, A Loan Exhibition of Paintings from the Fogg Art Museum - Cambridge, Fogg Art Museum, avril-août 1977, Master Paintings from the Fogg Collection - Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago,  1978, n° 43, repr. p. 94 - Montpellier, musée Fabre, 1985, Courbet à Montpellier, n° 38, repr. p. 68 - Harvard University Art Museum, 21 oct. 1985-5 janv. 1986, Modern Art at Harvard - Montpellier, New York, 1992-1993, n° 25 repr. p. 118 et p. 76 - Paris, New York, 1994-1995, Impressionnisme. Les origines 1859-1874, n° 11, pp. 334-335, repr. pl. 337 [Les références sont du catalogue en français] - Séoul, musée national d'Art contemporain, 2000-2001, L'impressionnisme et l'art moderne. Chefs-d'œuvre des collections du musée d'Orsay,  repr. p. 133 - Paris, musée Marmottan Monet, 2003-2004, cat. 18, repr. p. 61 - Montpellier, Paris, Washington, 2016-2017, cat. 53, repr. p. 248 et détail pp.18, 43, 139 [Les références sont du catalogue en français].


Burty, Le Rappel, 15 juin 1870, « Le Salon », p. 3 - Cham, Le Charivari, 1870, « Le Salon de 1870 », p. 3 - Duranty, Paris-Journal, 19 mai 1870, « Salon de 1870 »  - Bertall, Le Journal amusant, 28 mai 1870, « Promenade au Salon de 1870 », p. 2 - Un frotteur, 29 mai 1870 - L’Arc-en-ciel, juin 1870, p. 275 - Astruc, L'Echo des Beaux-Arts, 12 juin 1870, « Salon de 1870 » - Enault, Le Constitutionnel, 20 juin 1870,  « Le Salon de 1870 » - Banville, Le National, 3 août 1870,  « Le Salon de 1870 » - Charensol, L'Amour de l'Art, janv. 1927, p. 26 - Poulain, La Renaissance de l"Art français et des industries de luxe, avril 1927, repr. p. 173 -  Poulain, Bazille et ses amis, 1932, n° 36, pp. 147-148, 152-153, 171, 176-178 et p. 218 - Bulletin of the Fogg Art Museum, n° 1, nov. 1937, p. 15 (repr.) - Boston Transcript, 20 nov. 1937 (repr.) - Bazille, Arts News, vol. XXXVI, n° 9, 27 nov. 1937 - Bazille, Art Digest, 1er juin 1938, p. 19 - Scheyer, Art Quarterly, printemps 1942, pp. 127-128, repr. p. 124 - Tietze, Gazette des Beaux-Arts, juillet-déc. 1944, vol. XXVI, p. 284 (repr.) - Rewald, Histoire de l'impressionnisme, 1946, p. 196, repr. p. 199; 1973, p. 234 - Sarraute, Catalogue de l'œuvre de Frédéric Bazille, 1948, n° 33, pp. 77-80, 82, 103  [Thèse de l'Ecole du Louvre non publiée] - Dorival, Musée de France, mai 1949, pp. 94-96 - Huisman, Arts, 9 juin 1950 - Daulte, Bazille et son temps, 1952, pp. 76, 133, 145, 149, n° 1, p. 154 et p. 184, n° 44 (repr.) [Thèse sous la direction de Gaston Poulain] - Dort, Boston Symphony Orchestra Bulletin, 1958-1959, pp. 1316- 1317 - Courthion, Autour de l'Impressionisme, 1964, p. 26, repr. coul. pl. 25 - Muehsam, French Painters and Paintings from the 14th Century to Post-Impressionism, 1970, pp. 491-493, repr. p. 492 - Courthion, L'Impressionnisme, 1972, p. 166, repr. coul. - Alderman, Sources in Bazille's Late Works, 1972, Harvard University - L'Oeil, juin-juillet 1972 (repr.) - Champa, Studies in Early Impressionism, 1973, pp. 89-90 - Rewald, Histoire de l'Impressionnisme, 1976, t. I, p. 285 [Réédition de 1946] - Houston, Brooklyn, 1976-1977, Caillebotte, A Retrospective Exhibition, fig. 1, repr. p. 84 - Marandel, Catalogue exp. The Art Institute of Chicago, 1978, n° 43, repr. p. 95 - Schulze, Art in America, sept.-oct. 1978, n° 5, repr. coul. p. 102 - Kelder, Le grand livre de l'impressionnisme français, 1981, p. 18 (repr.) - Le Pichon, Les peintres du bonheur, 1983, repr. p. 112 - Jones, Modern Art at Harvard, 1985, repr. coul. p. 30, fig. 15 - Rewald, 1986, Histoire de l'impressionnisme, pp. 153, 161 - Thomas, Montpellier, ville inconnue, 1987, repr. p. 118 - Bowron, 1990, European Paintings before 1900 in the Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, n° 328 (repr.) - Dolan, Gazette des Beaux-Arts, fév. 1990, repr. p. 101, fig. 3 - Daulte, Frédéric Bazille : Catalogue raisonné de l'œuvre peint, 1992, n° 7, pp. 75, 130, 138, 146, 150 et p. 175, n° 49 (repr. coul. p. 149) [Réédition de 1952 avec photos en couleur] - « Bazille : une jeunesse impressionniste », Beaux-Art Magazine, septembre 1992 (repr.) - Michel, Bazille, 1992, pp. 242-243 - Pitman, Catalogue exp. Montpellier, New York, 1992-1993, n° 25, pp. 118-119 - Bajou, Frédéric Bazille, 1993, p. 159 (repr.) - Tinterow, Catalogue exp. Paris, New York, 1994-1995, n° 11, pp. 334-335, pl. 337 - Schulman, Frédéric Bazille : Catalogue raisonné, 1995, n° 55, repr. p. 199 - Pitman, Bazille : Purity, Pose and Painting in the 1860s, 1998, pp. 145, 151-165, 189 - Champa, Pitman, Catalogue exp. Atlanta, High Museum, 1999, fig. 36, repr. p. 76,  pp. 75-77 - Hilaire, Jones,  Perrin, Catalogue exp. Montpellier, Paris, Washington, 2016-2017, cat. 53, repr. p. 248 et détail pp. 18, 43, 139 [Les références sont du catalogue en français] - Schulman, Frédéric Bazille : Catalogue raisonné numérique, 2022, n° 55.

The memory of summers at Méric pursued Bazille even within the gray walls of the capital and in his studio. Bazille conceived the project for this painting in February 1869: "I intend to work a lot at Méric, I even sketch a painting here so that I only have to finish it there", he wrote to his mother. From another letter dated May 2, 1869, we know that he was preparing the Summer Scene with three studies: Study for the Summer Scene, Study for the Summer Scene and Study for the Summer Scene.

The Summer Scene is in the same vein as the Fisherman with a Net which was refused at the 1868 Salon. It is one of his last attempts to insert people into an outdoor landscape because neither the Young Male Nude Lying nor obviously Ruth and Booz will they approach this theme in the same way. The Summer Scene, like La Toilette and the Young Male Nude Lying, is a large, squared-up for elarment composition. As much for La Toilette as for the Summer Scene, the choice of this format is the result of a carefully considered decision. This can be seen in the preparatory drawings, particularly in his Study for La Toilette, which Bazille took care to reduce to a squared-up for enlargement. One wonders why this preference, especially in 1869. Until then, Bazille had remained faithful to the purest tradition of the rectangular format. The square format, however, is unattractive and Bazille's gamble daring.

Eight people appear in this Languedoc landscape where the green grass contrasts with the dry grass of the View of the Village. In the foreground, a young man with long hair is leaning against a birch tree, his right hand and arm stuck to the trunk, his feet by the water. What is he thinking about, while all the others are frolicking and thus giving the painting a movement that is not usual in Bazille's work? Lonely beside this joyful group, locked in his meditation or dream, he contrasts with his companions by his profoundly romantic position. He has been compared by Ernest Scheyer to a Saint Sebastian, the exhibition catalogue of the 2016-2017 stating that it could be the one attributed to Jacopo Bassano [Musée des Beaux-Arts, Dijon] but also the shepherd at rest in Laurent de La Hyre's Paysage au berger jouant de la flûte that was part of the Fabre Museum's collections.

In the middle of the pond, probably emerging from the water, a young boy extends his arms while looking to the left. He makes think of the child wearing a cap in the lower right in the drawing Children Portraits.

Also in the foreground, but this time on the right side of the painting, two men, one helping the other out of the water, the one on the left, in the white and black striped boxer shorts, holding out his right arm to the older bare-chested man with a moustache and pointed beard, who grabs it with both hands.

In the center of the painting, another young man lying resting on his right arm looks at the two wrestlers in the background. These are wearing blue and red jerseys respectively, a convenient device Bazille uses to make difference between them. Finally, in the background again, a man on the right is dressing or undressing.

Several drawings profile Bazille's early thoughts. The first three, in a classic rectangular format, show struggling bathers in various positions, which will only be partially repeated in the final painting. The drawing framed by a pencil border, however, begins to resemble this. But it is only the square drawing that announces Bazille's idea, not only with the place of the young men but also of the pool of water, which is the central theme of the painting. But above all, we discover the unexpected square format chosen by Bazille. This framing allows Bazille to better insert his characters who are brightening up around a round pond. The round and the square are thus cleverly complementary. If the theme and format caught the eye of the jury, who admitted the work to the 1870 Salon, they also won over the press, which then made a big deal of it, Study for the Summer Scene.

The Summer Scene, which Bazille called Baigneurs or Hommes nus [Letter of May 2, 1869] is set in a landscape planted with birch trees and dense pine trees. In the background of the painting are a few houses and a rocky hill that does not really remind of a landscape of the Midi. The choice of format allowed Bazille to frame his characters in the best possible way according to their roles. In fact, the perspective is obvious, starting from the foreground of the painting, wide open and animated with numerous characters, to narrow at the level of the clearing where the two wrestlers face each other. It is reinforced by the alignment of the trees on each side to end on the houses that can be seen in the distance. The whole picture is ruled by a triangular design whose two lower corners are, on the left, the young man leaning against the tree and, on the right, the man with the pointed beard, the upper corner being either the two wrestlers or the houses. It is here that we notice a difference between the preparatory drawing and the painting, the drawing not yet showing the final perspective. Pierre Courthion correctly points out that the Summer Scene is "Bazille's most composed painting" [Courthion, 1964, p. 26]. Generally speaking, Bazille strove, without always succeeding, to restore forms which, for him, as we know, often involved some problems. If we go back to the order in which we studied the characters, we should note the overly long arm and the webbed hand of the young man leaning against the tree. We can make almost the same remark concerning the graphics of the arms and hands of the young  bather. The same graphic awkwardness is finally noticeable in the man coming out of the water with an even more deformed right arm.

So it can be seen here again that Bazille neglected the drawing of his characters, which makes Sophie Monneret say that "the bathers have a certain naivety preluding the Douanier Rousseau" [Monneret, 1978].

On the other hand, it is once again the order of the landscape and the harmony of the colors that show his "absolute mastery of the landscape", a harmony that is found in the View of the Village and especially in the Fisherman with a Net. An annotation by Bazille in the preparatory drawing highlights the painter's research: "For the bathers - think to compare well the value of the clear water with the grass in the sun". Bazille effectively succeeds in this often difficult marriage of the two tones without one imposing itself over the other. Illuminated by the sun and the sky, the blue water becomes green in the shade and is reminiscent of the greens that Caillebotte would use in Les Périssoires sur l'Yerres in 1878 [Bérhaut, Catalogue raisonné Caillebotte, 1978, n° 91, p. 113]. The limpidity of the water lets the body of the little swimmer and the legs of the man  to his right appear through. But Bazille unfortunately did not succeed in going all the way, so that the surface of the water artificially cut off their bodies and legs. He will rarely, however, achieve such a harmony between the people and the landscape. The clothes of the men, the colored bathing suits, the pale blue pants of the man on the right, fit perfectly into this setting dominated by a blue sky disturbed in its purity by some white clouds. The color of the bathing trunks is still reminiscent of Caillebotte, for example in the Plongeur of 1877 [Bérhaut, Catalogue raisonné Caillebotte, 1978, p. 108, n° 78]. As for the flesh, it is unevenly rendered, sometimes accurately as in the case of the man lying on the grass, sometimes too pink, sometimes shiny as in the right leg of the bather emerging from the water, so shiny that one would think it was varnished. The shadows are perfectly rendered. The bark of the birch tree on the left is perfectly true and the pine trees, which sometimes have difficulty taking root, show a good sense of observation. If some anatomical errors are obvious, they are not numerous. However, this is what Schulze wants to say, as he also insists on the discrepancy between the characters and the landscape. For this same reason, Dorival sees this landscape as only an added element to what Champa calls "a veritable catalogue of sportsmen's portraits" [Champa, 1973, pp. 89-90].

The Summer Scene was sent to the 1870 Salon along with La Toilette. In a letter dated April 7 or 8, 1870, Bazille wrote to his parents: "My two paintings are received at the Salon". Mistake, since only the Summer Scene was accepted by the jury.

Caricature de la Scène d'été, Cham, Le Charivari du 15 mai 1870
Caricature de la Scène d'été, Cham, Le Charivari du 15 mai 1870
The reception was rather warm. There were certainly quips. There were some in L'Arc-en-ciel and Le Courrier des deux mondes as well as among the cartoonists: Bertall in Le Journal amusant and Cham in Le Charivari. But other critics, and not the least, were more or less favorable. Burty criticized the excessive use of pure and simple juxtaposition of portions of light or black, but was sensitive to the "loyal search for light" [Burty, "Le Salon", Le Rappel, June 15, 1870]; and Zacharie Astruc echoed him, but with much more warmth, writing: "M. Bazille is already master of an element he has conquered: the astonishing fullness of light - the particular impression of plein air, the power of the day" [Astruc, "Le Salon", L'Écho des Beaux-Arts, June 12, 1870]. The Summer Scene was also noticed by Théodore de Banville for whom "the water and the - climbing - men  are so true" [Banville, "Le Salon de 1870", Le National, August 2, 1870]. Bazille doubted the quality of his work and, before the Salon opened, he was far from being optimistic about the reception he would receive. This is what he revealed to us in July 1869 in a letter to Edmond Maître: "I will arrive in Paris with only one painting, which you will perhaps find atrocious. They are my naked men". But he was soon reassured and flattered by his success, which he tells his parents as follows: "I am delighted with my exhibition, my painting is very well placed, everyone sees it and talks about it, many say more bad things about it than good, but finally I am launched and everything I exhibit from now on will be watched. I have heard harsh judgments, there are people who laugh, but I have received hyperbolic praise that my modesty prevents me from writing down".

Everything was looking relatively good for Bazille. The Summer Scene confirmed what he had already set out to do in the Fisherman with a Net, namely to paint naked men in the open air. As Dorival says, there is in the Summer Scene "an admirable boldness" [Dorival, May 1949, pp. 94-96]. This audacity prefigures Cézanne's bathers, who would also seek to put color and volume before form.

"Everything competes to make this painting a plastic equivalent of the bodily sensations experienced or fantasized by the painter. Ode to the glory of a homosocial, if not homoerotic hedonism. The Summer Scene, along with the Fisherman with a Net, is without doubt one of Bazille's most personal works... It is an all too obvious admission of his deep desires for freedom", writes Perrin in the 2016-2017 exhibition catalogue [P. 143]. In doing so, he underlines the true meaning of this work as it has probably never been done before.

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