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Frédéric Bazille

The Digital Catalogue Raisonné

by Michel Schulman
© The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago

Frédéric Bazille with a Palette

Huile sur toile
108,9 x 71,1cm - 42 7/8 x 28 3/8 in.
Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago, Etats-Unis - Inv. 1962.336
Dernière mise à jour : 2023-12-22 19:05:58
Référence : MSb-20


Famille de l’artiste - André Bazille, neveu du peintre - Mme Rachou-Bazille - Vente galerie Charpentier, Paris, 17 juin 1960, n° 54 - Wildenstein, New York - The Art Institute of Chicago, 1962 (The Frank H. and Louise B. Woods Purchase Fund, in memory of Mrs. Edward Harris Brewster).


Paris, Grand Palais, 1910, Rétrospective  Bazille, n° 13 - Montpellier, Exposition internationale, 1927, Rétrospective Bazille,  n° 18 - Paris, Association des étudiants protestants, 1935, n° 5 (repr.) - Montpellier, musée Fabre, 1941, n° 18 - Paris, galerie Wildenstein, 1950, n° 16 (repr.) - Montpellier, musée Fabre, 1958, Des Primitifs à Nicolas de Staël,  n° 3 - Montpellier, musée Fabre, 1959, n° 9 (repr.) - Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago, 1978, n° 13, repr. p. 48 - Albi, musée Toulouse-Lautrec, Trésors impressionnistes du musée de Chicago, n° 16 - New York, Wildenstein Gallery, 1985, Paris Cafés - Montpellier, New York, 1992-1993, n° 42, repr. p. 137 - Paris, musée Marmottan Monet, 2003-2004, cat. 8, repr. p. 67 - Montpellier, Paris, Washington, 2016-2017, cat. 17, repr. p. 227 et p. 49 [Les références sont du catalogue en français] - Schulman, Frédéric Bazille : Catalogue raisonné numérique, 2022, n° 20.


Poulain, Bazille et ses amis, 1932, n° 17, pp. 84-85, 214 - Colombier, Candide, 4 avril 1935, p. 8 - Sarraute, Catalogue de l'œuvre de Frédéric Bazille, 1948, n° 10, p. 20 [Thèse de l'Ecole du Louvre non publiée] - Daulte, Bazille et son temps, 1952, p. 141 et n° 1 et p. 170, n° 10 (repr.) [Thèse sous la direction de Gaston Poulain] - Le Figaro, 14 décembre 1961 (rpr.) - Bazin, « Chronique des Arts », Gazette des Beaux-Arts, fév. 1963, n° 155, p. 40 - Chronique des Arts, suppl. Gazette des Beaux-Arts, février 1963, n° 155 (repr.) - Maxon, The Art Institute of Chicago Quarterly, 1963, p. 22, repr. p. 23 - Maxon, Apollo, sept. 1966, n° 5, p. 216 (repr.) - Trêves, Le Peintre, 1er oct. 1969, p. 14 (repr.) et pp. 14-17 - Sérullaz, I disegni di maestri, 1970, fig. 32 - Maxon, Museum Studies, 1977, p. 79 (repr.) - Fremantle, Burlington Magazine, sept. 1978, pp. 608-631 - Marandel, Cat. exp. The Art Institute of Chicago, 1978, n° 13, repr. p. 48 - Druick, Hoog, Fantin-Latour, 1982, p. 206 - « Chronique des Arts », Gazette des Beaux Arts, février 1983 (?), n° 155, repr. p. 40 - Mac Quillian, Les portraits impressionnistes, 1986, p. 32 (repr.) - Brettell, French Salon Artists, 1987, p. 75, repr. p. 74 - Bonafoux, Les Impressionnistes. Portraits et Confidences, 1986, p. 48 (repr.) - Daulte, Frédéric Bazille : Catalogue raisonné de l'œuvre peint, 1992, n° 10, pp. 134, 157 (pl. coul. p. 135) [Réédition de 1952 avec photos en couleur] - Michel, Bazille, 1992, pp. 13-14 - Cat. exp. Montpellier, New York, 1992-1993, n° 42, repr. p. 137 - Bajou, Frédéric Bazille, 1993, p. 75 (repr.) - Schulman, Frédéric Bazille : Catalogue raisonné, 1995, n° 20, repr. p. 133 - Hilaire, Jones, Perrin, Cat. exp. Montpellier, Paris, Washington, 2016-2017, n° 17, repr. p. 227 et p. 49 [Les références sont du catalogue en français] - Schulman, Frédéric Bazille : Catalogue raisonné numérique, 2022, n° 20.

With the three other portraits Bazille did at this time, Frédéric Bazille with a Palette starts a series. The date on which this painting was executed is difficult to determine. Several proposals were made by both Sarraute and Poulain. Sarraute proposes that of July 1865, comparing the Bazille in our painting to that in Monet's Déjeuner sur l'herbe executed at the same time. "He is in shirt sleeves, his vest is dark and his pants light" [Sarraute, 1948, n° 10, p. 20]. Although Sarraute's arguments do not entirely convince us, we are inclined to retain this date rather than that of Poulain, for whom this painting was done at the same time as the Portrait of Renoir in 1867. As for Daulte, he also retains the date of 1865, stating that it was done at Chailly in August, at the same time as The Improvised Field Hospital. In any case, this is Bazille's first self-portrait and it is surprising that he does not mention it in his correspondence and especially that it is not signed. It is, moreover, the only self-portrait so complete where his great height is evident: 1.88 meters.

Here he has depicted himself in a three-quarter view, wearing a black, sleeveless vest and a white shirt with a open collar. In his right hand he holds a palette and brushes; in his left, another brush, which tends to prove that he used a mirror to make his painting. Seeking austerity, Bazille used dark colors: a black vest on a gray background - contrasted by the whites of the shirt. The only colors that brighten the painting are in fact those seen on the palette: greens, whites, yellows, browns, blues, drowned in a dominant color: gray. To further accentuate the harmony of the whole," writes Daulte, "he detached his portraits on backgrounds of an even and darkened tone... Very often Bazille exaggerated the darkness of the backgrounds to bring out the illuminated faces better, to put the figures in relief" [Daulte, 1992, p. 137]. This is what he does in this portrait where the face is particularly marked thanks to this contrast. What were his sources of inspiration? While self-portraits of artists at work originated in the seventeenth century, "it was in the mid-nineteenth century that the image of the artist posing with his or her palette [became] a familiar concept" [Jones, p. 48].

Autoportrait à la palette, Paul Cézanne, 1890, Fondation Emil G. Bührle, Zurich
Autoportrait à la palette, Paul Cézanne, 1890, Fondation Emil G. Bührle, Zurich
Effectively, this theme bloomed at this time and Bazille was no exception. The fact remains that we must cite an almost certain source of inspiration: it is Fantin-Latour with his Autoportrait in the Grenoble Museum. But what does Bazille mean? In fact, he wants to impose his vocation as an artist in the eyes of others, especially his family, as he will do through the painting of his various studios, starting with the one on the rue de Furstenberg in 1865. So only two years after his passage to the Gleyre studio. As here, the palette is an essential element of his paintings representing his studio. On the floor in the studio on rue de Furstenberg, on the easel in the studio on rue Visconti and on the right wall in the studio on rue de La Condamine. The subject matter does not end there as Renoir paints Bazille himself painting his famous Still Life with Heron from the Orsay Museum but not until much later... in 1867. As Jones points out, there is a significant difference between Bazille's vision of himself in his Frédéric Bazille with a Palette and that of Renoir, who depicts him in a studio smock, obviously more suited to the artist's work. With his immaculate white shirt, there is a kind of unnaturalness, she adds in substance. The message is clear, however, since Bazille puts himself on stage for the first time in this self-portrait when he is just beginning to assert himself. This is indeed the meaning to be given to this major work.

Technical analysis conducted by The Art Institute of Chicago have made it possible to compare the colors on the palette with those used in the painting and to conclude that they are exactly the same except for black, which is absent. A remark all the more interesting because it is black that dominates - clearly! - in the painting.

"This is a work that shows a certain impressive technical ease matched by a certain degree of self-consciousness", concludes Jones [Jones, p. 51]. From the top of his 1,88 m, Bazille "contemplates" us as did Napoleon in Egypt at the Pyramids !