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Frédéric Bazille

The Digital Catalogue Raisonné

by Michel Schulman
© Musée d'Orsay, Paris

Forest of Fontainebleau

Huile sur toile
59 x 73 cm - 23 5/8 x 28 3/4 in.
Paris, Musée d'Orsay, France - Inv. RF 2721
Dernière mise à jour : 2022-06-08 15:42:41
Référence : MSb-13


Don du peintre à Fantin-Latour - Don de Mme Fantin-Latour au musée du Luxembourg, 1905 - Attribué au musée du Louvre-Galerie du Jeu de Paume le 5 janvier 1929 (RF 2721) - Entré au Jeu de Paume en 1947 - Au musée d’Orsay en 1986.


Paris, Grand Palais, 1910, Salon d'automne, n° 5 - Grenoble, musée de Grenoble, 1936, Centenaire de Fantin-Latour, n° 505 - Exposition itinérante dans le Midi de la France, mai 1956, Le paysage français de Poussin aux impressionnistes, n° 22 - Paris, musée Delacroix, Delacroix et l’impressionnisme, 1970 - Paris, musée Delacroix, 1975, Delacroix et les peintres de la nature [cité seulement] - Mont-de-Marsan, 1980, Le Second Empire dans les Landes, n° 23 (repr.) - Tokyo, musée d’Art occidental, 1982, Tendances du réalisme en France, n° 30 (repr.) - Berlin, Prague, 1982-1983, De Courbet à Cézanne, n° 6, repr. p. 47 - Los Angeles, Chicago, Paris, 1984-1985, L’Impressionnisme et le paysage français, n° 8, repr. coul. p. 57 - Montpellier, New York, 1992-1993, n° 38, repr. p. 133 - Toulon, musée de Toulon, 1992-1993, Le paysage provençal et l'école de Marseille avant l'impressionnisme, pl. 168, repr. p. 149 - Sarrebruck, Saarbrucken Museum, 2001, p. 160 (repr.) - Le Caire, musée national Khalil, 1998, n° 11, p. 60, repr. p. 269 - Lyon, musée des Beaux-Arts, 2002, L'école de Barbizon, peindre en plein air avant l'impressionnisme, n° 11, repr. p. 269 - Ravenne, Loggetta Lombardesca, 2003, repr. p. 210 - Vitoria-Gasteiz, Sala Fundacion Caja Vital Kutxa, 2005, Las Escuelas de Barbizon y de Olot, pp. 24-25 (repr.) - Washington, National Gallery, 2008, n° 16, p. 180 (repr.) - Padoue, Palazzo Zabarella, 2009-2010, Telemaco Signorini e la pintura in Europa, n° 5 (repr.) - Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Madrid, 2012-2013, Impressionismo. Paris e la modernidade. Obras-primas Musée d'Orsay, cat. 49, p. 61 (repr.) - Rome, Complesso del Vittoriano, 2014, Musée d'Orsay Capolavori, n° 10, p. 66 (repr.) - Montpellier, Paris, Washington, 2016-2017, cat. 23, repr. p. 229 et p. 61 [Les références sont du catalogue en français].


Bénédite, Catalogue des peintures de l'Ecole française du musée du Luxembourg, 1924, n° 23, p. 226 - Charensol, L'Amour de l'Art, janvier 1927, pp. 26, 28 - Masson, Catalogue des peintures, sculptures et miniatures du musée du Luxembourg, 1927, p. 12 [Sous le titre La Garrigue] - Poulain, L'Eclair du Midi, 1er nov. 1926 - Poulain, Formes, nov. 1931, n° 19 - Poulain, Bazille et ses amis, 1932, n° 9, pp. 53, 56, 212 - Scheyer, Art Quarterly, 1942, p. 120 - Drucker, Arts, 16 mai 1947 - Catalogue du musée de l’impressionnisme, 1947, n° 22 [Sous le titre La Garrigue] - Daulte, Bazille et son temps, 1952, n° 11, pp. 110, 170-171 [Thèse sous la direction de Gaston Poulain] - Adhémar, Sterling, Musée national du Louvre. Peintures, 1958, n° 41, t. I, repr. pl. XIII - Catalogue impressionnistes, musée du Louvre, 1959, n° 3 - Adhémar, Dayez, 1973, Musée du Luxembourg-Jeu de Paume, pp. 8, 139 (repr.)  - Adhémar, Distel, Catalogue du musée du Jeu de Paume, 1977, repr. p. 12 - Gache-Patin, Lassaigne, Sisley, 1983, p. 55, repr. p. 64 - Adhémar, Dayez, Musée du Jeu de Paume, 1983, p. 151, repr. p. 12 - Compin, Roquebert, 1986, Catalogue sommaire des peintures du musée d'Orsay, repr. p. 49 - Patin, 1986, A la campagne, n° 17 (repr.) - Rosenblum, 1989, Les peintures du musée d'Orsay, repr. p. 225 - Compin, Lacambre, 1990, Catalogue sommaire illustré des peintures du musée d'Orsay, t. 1, repr. p. 46 - Daulte, Frédéric Bazille : Catalogue raisonné de l'œuvre peint, 1992, n° 11, p. 38 (repr. coul.) et p. 157 [Réédition de 1952 avec photos en couleur] - Jourdan, Vuatone, Cat. exp. Montpellier, New York, 1992-1993, n° 38, repr. p. 133 - Bajou, Frédéric Bazille, 1993, n° 35, repr. p. 79 (repr.) - Parinaud, Barbizon. Les origines de l'impressionnisme, 1994, p. 80 - Schulman, Frédéric Bazille : Catalogue raisonné, 1995, n° 13, repr. p. 120 - Pitman, Bazille : Purity, Pose and Painting in the 1860s, 1998, p. 251, note 30 - Pomarède, Cat. exp. Lyon, musée des Beaux-Arts, 2002, L'école de Barbizon, peindre en plein air avant l'impressionnisme, n° 11, repr. p. 269 - Hilaire, Jones, Perrin, Cat. exp. Montpellier, Paris, Washington, 2016-2017, cat. 23, repr. p. 229 et p. 61 [Les références sont du catalogue en français] - Schulman, Frédéric Bazille : Catalogue raisonné numérique, 2022, n° 13.

On May 4, 1865, Monet, insisting, wrote again to Bazille to ask him to come to Chailly: "You are wasting your time in Paris; here everything is superb, you should take advantage of the fine days".

Did Bazille really go to Chailly, in the Spring of 1865, at Monet's urging? No precise information appears in his correspondence about it. In a letter to his father dated July 17, he wrote: "I still need about ten days to finish the paintings I have begun, after which I must go to spend five or six days  at Chailly to do Monet a favor; he is doing a large painting in which I must appear, and he needs this time to paint me". This will be the Déjeuner sur l'herbe. It was not until August 19 that he finally arrived at Chailly; he announced it to his father in a letter of August 24.

It is surprising that in two weeks, he had time to paint all the pictures attributed to this period. Perhaps this stay at Chailly, in August-September 1865, was preceded, that same year, by others to which his correspondence does not bear witness, his correspondence being more than lacunar in this respect.

Bazille painted a corner of a forest with, in the foreground, a path, brush and, in the background, small rocks, islands of light surrounded by dark, dense trees. Obviously, he painted on the motif and wanted to render a soft and pleasant atmosphere. The light is hidden by the trees that stand out against a milky white sky. Everything is still. Rare rocks, by a few pinkish or bluish spots, punctuate this landscape that is similar to the landscape tradition of the nineteenth century.

In 1865, the principal French landscape artists were familiar with Fontainebleau, either having stayed there, such as Rousseau, Diaz, or Millet, or having passed through, such as Courbet, Monet, Sisley, Renoir, Cézanne and, of course, Bazille, to name only the best known. On the Forest of Fontainebleau converge several influences, which will make Charensol say that "the technique of Rousseau, French and other Barbizon painters, greatly appealed to [Bazille] when he was painting his Forest of Fontainebleau in 1862-1863" [Charensol, whose dating we do not accept, L'Amour de l'Art, 1927, n° 1, p. 28].

Among these influences, we must first mention that of Courbet. We know that Bazille made his acquaintance in 1863 through his friend Fajon. From his childhood, he had had the opportunity to discover him and admire his talent in the Bruyas collection.

"Did Courbet's influence [...] originate in his (and Corot's) visit to the injured Monet?" wonders Rewald [Rewald, The History of Impressionism, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1946, p. 102]. In any case, Bazille works like Courbet and plays on the effects of the material. Here, the landscape still remains dark, too dark to fully give that effect that will triumph in the Landscape at Chailly, where the impact of light will play its full role. To Diaz, whom he undoubtedly knew thanks to Renoir, he owes this opaque clearing from which only patches of light emerge, but this light, as Daulte says, "does not trickle down"; on the contrary, it is discreetly applied.

It is in fact to Théodore Rousseau's technique that this painting is the closest. It takes from him this mixture of tones, these greens and browns that sometimes make the foregrounds indistinct. It also takes from him the use of the color of the canvas and the sensitivity of the foliage of the trees, whose tops, brushed in small strokes, let through a subdued light. Bazille was a great admirer of Rousseau. In an April 27, 1869 letter to his cousin Louis Bazille, he wrote, "I admire Delacroix as much as anything, I like Ingres, Corot, Rousseau, Millet, often Courbet".

Poulain concludes that he was a great admirer of Rousseau and concludes his commentary on the Forest of Fontainebleau and the Landscape at Chailly quite harshly, in our opinion: "No more than the golden mists of the Normandy coast, it will be the spring-like aspect of the opaque thickets of Fontainebleau that will reveal Bazille to himself" [Poulain, 1932, pp. 53-54]. Certainly, the Forest of Fontainebleau still seems quite wise, but it technically paves the way for the Landscape at Chailly where all the painter's originality will be expressed.