The Family Gathering
Huile sur toile
152 x 227 cm - 59 3/4 x 90 1/2in.
Signé et daté en bas à gauche : F. Bazille, 1867
Paris, Musée d'Orsay, France - Inv. RF 2749
Dernière mise à jour : 2022-04-03 06:23:39
Référence : MSb-37
Huile sur toile
152 x 227 cm - 59 3/4 x 90 1/2in.
Signé et daté en bas à gauche : F. Bazille, 1867
Paris, Musée d'Orsay, France - Inv. RF 2749
Dernière mise à jour : 2022-04-03 06:23:39
Référence : MSb-37
Salon de 1868 - Retouché en 1869 - Marc Bazille, frère de l'artiste - Don de ce dernier au musée du Luxembourg, 1905 - Transféré au musée du Louvre, 1929 - Musée du Jeu de Paume, 1947 - Musée d’Orsay, 1986.
Paris, Palais de l’industrie, 1868, Salon de 1868, n° 146 [Sous le titre : Portraits de la famille XXX]- Paris, Grand Palais, 1910, Rétrospective Bazille, n° 10 - Paris, Salon d’automne, 1923, Rétrospective des rétrospectives de 1904 à 1922, n° 2348 [Sous le titre : La Terrasse] - Montpellier, Exposition internationale, 1927, Rétrospective Bazille, n° 8 - Montpellier, musée Fabre, 1941, n° 23, repr. en couverture - Paris, galerie Wildenstein, 1950, n° 36 (repr.) - Londres, The Arts Council of Great-Britain, 1954, Manet and his Circle, n° 51, repr. pl . XI - Rome, Florence, 1955, Chefs d’oeuvre du XIXe siècle français, n° 1, fig. 65 - Paris, musée Jacquemart-André, 1957, Le Second Empire. De Winterhalter à Renoir, n° 7 - Bordeaux, galerie des Beaux-Arts, 1974, Naissance de l’impressionnisme, n° 83, repr. coul. pl. XVI - Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago, 1978, n° 28, repr. p. 71 - Montpellier, New York, 1992-1993, n° 18, pp. 106-107, repr. p. 107 - Kobé, musée municipal, 1999, Rêve et Réalité, n° 34, repr. p. 80-81 - Tokyo, musée national d'Art occidental, 1999, Rêve et Réalité, n° 34, repr. p. 80-81 - Séoul, musée national d'Art contemporain, 2000-2001, L'impressionisme et l'art moderne, repr. p. 132 - Paris, musée Marmotttan Monet, 2003-2004, cat. 14, repr. p. 55 - Madrid, Fundacion Mapfre, 2010, Impressionismo : Un nuevo renacimiento, n° 12, repr. p. 177 - Tokyo, National Art Center, 2014, Naissance de l'impressionnisme, cat. 57, repr. p. 179 - Montpellier, Paris, Washington, 2016-2017, cat. 42, repr. p. 240 et pp. 128-129 et 202, 214, 216 (Détails) [Les références sont du catalogue en français].
Ixe, Journal de Montpellier, 23 mai 1868 - Zola, L'Evénement illustré, 2 mai-26 juin 1868, p. 210, repris dans Ecrits sur l'art, 1991, pp. 206-211 - Castagnary, Le Siècle, 1868, Salon de 1868, pp. 313-314 - Bénédite, Catalogue sommaire des peintures et sculptures de l'école contemporaine, musée national du Luxembourg, 1912, n° 22 - Michel, Journal des Débats, 16 avril 1920, pp. 648-649 - Bénédite, Catalogue des peintures du musée du Luxembourg, 1924, n° 15 (repr.) - Joubin, Les Beaux-Arts, 15 avril 1924, pp. 119-121 - Poulain, L'Eclair du Midi, 1er nov. 1926 - Masson, Catalogue des peintures, sculptures du musée du Luxembourg, 1927, p. 13 (repr.) - Charensol, L'Amour de l'Art, janv. 1927 - Poulain, La Renaissance de l'Art français et des industries de luxe, 1er avril 1927 (repr.) - Poulain, ABC, Magazine de l'Art, mai 1927, pp.115-120 - Trévise, Revue de l'art ancien et moderne, fév. 1927 - Focillon, La peinure aux XIXème et XXème siècles, 1928, pp. 211-212, repr. p. 211 - Rey, L'Art vivant, 1928, pp. 34-35 - Pastre, Thomas, Montpellier, ville inconnue, 1930, p. 75 - Poulain, Formes, nov. 1931, n° 19, pp. 155-156 - Poulain, Bazille et ses amis, 1932, n° 23, pp. 57, 82, 85, 87, 89, 91, 94, 99-101, 108-113, 125 et p. 215 - Florisoone, Nouvelle revue des jeunes, 15 oct. 1932, pp. 1093-1094 - Descossy, Montpellier, berceau de l'impressionnisme, 1933, pp. 23-24 - Poulain, L'Art et les artistes, juin 1934, pp. 315-319 - Gillet, Le Trésor des musées de province : le musée de Montpellier, 1935, repr. p. 239, 241 - Colombier, Candide, 4 avril 1935 - Guillaume, Colloque de Berne, 1936, vol. 1 - Romane-Musculus, Les prières des mains, 1938, repr. pl. XVI - Scheyer, Art Quarterly, printemps 1942, p. 124 - Guérif, A la recherche d'une esthétique protestante, 1943, pp. 34-35 - Hautecoeur, Littérature et peinture en France du XVIIe au XXe siècle, 1945, p. 134 - Musée de l’impressionnisme, 1947, n° 24 - Claparède, Languedoc méditerranéen et Roussillon d'hier et d'aujourd'hui, 1947, pp. 236-237 - Bazin, L'Epopée impressionniste, 1947, p. 63, repr. pl. 13 - Prinçay, Cahiers du sud, 1947, p. 869 - Sarraute, Catalogue de l'œuvre de Frédéric Bazille, 1948, n° 25, pp. 54-60 et p. 115 [Thèse de l'Ecole du Louvre non publiée] - Cogniat, Au temps des impressionnistes, 1950, repr. coul. p. 14 - Huisman, Arts, 9 juin 1950 - Daulte, Arts, 24 juin 1950 - Huygue, Museum, 1950, p. 204, repr. p. 206 - Romane-Musculus, Réforme, 24 juin 1950 - Guérif, Le Monde, 10 juin 1950 - Lacote, Arts de France, oct. 1950, pp. 44-46 - Sarraute, Catalogue exp. galerie Wildentein, Paris, 1950, n° 36 - Daulte, Bazille et son temps, 1952, n° 29, pp. 32, 63, 65, 67, 112, 116-117, 144-147, 151 et p. 78 et repr. coul. face p. 96 [Thèse sous la direction de Gaston Poulain] - Francastel, Les Belles Lettres, 1955, p. 179 - Leymarie, L'Impressionnisme, 1955, p. 47, repr. coul. détail, p. 52 - Roger-Marx, Les Impressionnistes, 1956, p. 38 - Adhémar, Bazin, Beaulieu, Sérullaz, 1958, n° 5, p. 3 - Bazin, 1958, Trésors de l'impressionnisme au Louvre, p. 102 - Adhémar, Sterling, Musée national du Louvre, 1958, n° 42, repr. pl. XIV - Allier, Lettres françaises, oct. 1959 - Bernat, Jardin des arts, oct. 1959 (repr.) - Leymarie, La peinture française : le XIXe siècle, 1962, p. 177, repr. coul. - Bazin, 1962, Trésors de la peinture au Louvre, p. 102, repr. coul. p. 103 - Aman-Jean, L'Enfant oublié, 1963, pp. 41, 48 - Courthion, Autour de l'impressionisme, 1964, p. 23, repr. coul. pl. 24 - Perruchot, La vie de Renoir, 1964, p. 53 - Guidice, Les Impressionnistes, 1965, pl. 16 - Lassaigne, Les Impressionnistes, 1966, p. 17, repr. coul. p. 21 - Elgar, Dictionnaire universel de l'art et des artistes, 1967, p. 119, repr. coul. - Cogniat, Le siècle des Impressionnistes, 1967, repr. coul. p. 20 - Lapeyre, Plaisir de France, janv. 1970, n° 10 (repr.) - Blunden, Frédéric Bazille, Journal de l'Impressionnisme, 1970, p. 78, repr. coul. - Les muses, 1970, p. 688 - Marandel, Catalogue exp. The Art Institute of Chicago, 1978, n° 28, repr. p. 71 - Roskill, Burlington Magazine, juin 1970, Early Impressionism and the Fashion Print, pp. 391-395 - Keyser, Revue belge d'archéologie et d'histoire, 1972, pp. 151-164 - Catalogue des peintures du musée du Louvre, 1972, t. I, p. 26 - Sérullaz, L'Impressionnisme, 1972, pp. 31-32, cité p. 54 - Cogniat, L'Impressionnisme, 1972, cité p. 22, repr. coul. p. 24 - Valsech, Le musée du Jeu de Paume, 1972, n° 2, p. 18 (repr. coul.) - Sérullaz, Les peintres impressionnistes, 1973, pp. 42, 52 - Rewald, Histoire de l'Impressionnisme, 1973, p. 177 [Réédition de 1946] - Champa, Studies in Early Impressionism, 1973, p. 87, repr. pl. 24 - L’Impressionnisme, t. 8, 1973, ch. 12, p. 236, 267, repr. coul. p. 242 - Huygue, La relève du réel, 1974, n° 102, p. 117 - Pillement, Sérullaz, Encyclopédie de l'impressionnisme, 1974, pp. 64-65 (repr.) - Adhémar, Distel, Catalogue du musée du Jeu de Paume, 1977, repr. p. 12 - Francastel, Les Belles Lettres, 1981, repr. p. 241 - Paris, Grand-Palais, Renoir, 1985, pp. 76, 80 - Laclotte, 1986, pp. 79-81 - Mathieu, Musée d'Orsay. Guide, 1986, p. 76, repr. coul. p. 79 - Daulte, Frédéric Bazille : Catalogue raisonné de l'œuvre peint, 1992, pp. 60, 62, 106, pp. 113-114, 130-132, 138, 141-142, 145 et pp. 166-167, n° 3 (repr.) et repr. coul. p. 131 [Réédition de 1952 avec photos en couleur] - Montpellier, musée Fabre, 1991-1992, 150e anniversaire de Frédéric Bazille, p. 11, fig. 3 - Jourdan, Cat. exp. Montpellier, New York, 1992-1993, n° 18, repr. p. 106 - Bajou, Frédéric Bazille, 1993, p. 49 (repr.) - Adams, L'Ecole de Barizon : aux sources de l'Impressionnisme, 1994, p. 208, pl. 155 - Schulman, Frédéric Bazille : Catalogue raisonné, 1995, n° 37, repr. p. 161 - Cachin, L'Arte del XIX secolo, 1997, n° 611 (repr.) - Champa, Pitman, Catalogue exp. Atlanta, High Museum, 1999, fig. 47, repr. p. 89, pp. 48-51 - « Scènes de la vie de province », Plaisir de France », 1999, repr. p. 39 - Vermont, Valeurs de l'Art, mars-avril 2000, Hommage à Bazille, repr. p. 46 - L'Estampille-L'objet d'art, Jardins impressionnistes : la beauté éphémère, juillet-août 2009, repr. p. 32 - Barrada, Cogeval, Guégan, Catalogue exp. Madrid, Fundacion Mapfre, 2010-2011, n° 12, repr. p. 117 - Madrid, Fundacion Mapfre, 2013, Impressionistas y postimpressionistas, fig. 32, repr. p. 52 - Hilaire, Jones, Perrin, Catalogue exp. Montpellier, Paris, Washington, 2016-2017, cat. 42, repr. p. 230 et pp. 128-129 et 202, 214, 216 (détails) [Les références sont du catalogue en français] - Schulman, Frédéric Bazille : Catalogue raisonné numérique, 2022, n° 37.
It was during the Summer of 1867 at Méric that Bazille executed The Family Gathering. None of his other paintings are of comparable importance, nor are any of them so charged with meaning. It is both one of the most representative works of this period in French painting, and one of those in which he most asserts his own personality and family social standing. It is a work of great importance to the artist.
This is not the first time Méric has served up his projects: The Pink Dress, The Terrace at Méric, Oleanders and the View of the Village are all paintings in which the close bond forged between Bazille and the family property is evident.
It was in May 1867 that he announced his intention to do The Family Gathering. He specifies that he will first go to Aigues-Mortes, "after which," he says, "I will begin at Méric a large painting that will last all Summer. Monet was aware of this project: "Take good care of it, especially the proportions, the setting", he advised Bazille from Sainte-Adresse on July 16, 1867.
On a beautiful Summer day, the Bazille family is gathered under the chestnut tree on the terrace at Méric. Eleven people were chosen from the artist's close relatives. From left to right: Bazille himself, barely visible, because he is half hidden by his uncle Eugène des Hours. The latter is wearing a bowler hat, his left hand resting on his vest, his right hand in his pocket. In front of him, Mrs Gaston Bazille, on the left, is looking at us, dressed in a beautiful blue dress and a darker shawl over her shoulders. To her left, her husband, Gaston Bazille, looking stern, is the only character who is not looking at us. Continuing to the right, just beside the trunk of the chestnut tree, is Emile Teulon, husband of Pauline des Hours, niece of Mrs Gaston Bazille. The couple is holding each other by the arm. Emile Teulon is wearing a top hat, his wife a sort of refined mantilla with bare arms. In front of her, seated around a round metal table, are two young girls. The one directly facing us is Adrienne des Hours, sister of Madame Gaston Bazille; she wears a straw hat that somewhat hides her face. In front of her and almost in profile, Thérèse des Hours - who will become Mme Gaston Auriol - wears a magnificent muslin dress with polka dots, full of freshness and grace. Finally, near the small wall, a group of three figures: Marc Bazille, the artist's brother, is standing, slightly bent over behind his wife Suzanne, born Tissié, who is sitting on the parapet. She is wearing a striped dress, less bright and more discreet than all the others. Finally, on the far right, also wearing a polka-dot dress, Camille des Hours is, like Suzanne, sitting on the parapet and looking at us, her head resting on her left hand. A sewing basket is placed on the garden table. A bunch of flowers, an elegant woman's straw hat, and an umbrella litter the ground in the center of the painting.
The scene is familiar. The chestnut tree, with its mighty boughs, plays the same role as in the Oleanders: it forms a kind of frame, within which the whole scene is ordered.
Behind the people, one can distinguish, in the background, between the foliage of the chestnut tree and the small wall that girdles Méric, the village of Castelnau-le-Lez, a few white houses asleep in the sun. On the right, a parasol pine found in The little Gardener.
There is a contrast between the foreground, where the shade of the chestnut tree brings some coolness, and the background, where the village of Castelnau and the surrounding countryside suffer from the southern heat. In order to strengthen this difference, Bazille used cold tones for the foreground: grays, the blacks of some of the stakes; even the bouquet of flowers on the ground has sad, almost faded colors.
Bazille launched several studies and executed preparatory drawings that allow one to follow the evolution of his ideas. The drawing Study for The Family Gathering, is most likely a preparatory drawing for the final painting. We lean toward this view rather than Joubin's, which links it to The Terrace at Méric. It shows a group of people gathered around a round table. Other, more partial drawings were also used for The Family Gathering. These include, for example, the Study of Hand [those of Thérèse des Hours], the Study of Hand [that of Emile Teulon] and the Study of Woman in Profile. But two non-album drawings kept in the Louvre Museum are in fact the actual studies for The Family Gathering: Study for The Family Gathering, Study for The Family Gathering. These drawings prove, with certainty, that Bazille had the elements of his setting in place from the beginning of his project.
Poulain says of The Family Gathering that it is an "extraordinary psychological document of a social class under the Second Empire" [Poulain, 1932, p. 91]. Bazille, he adds, brought to his work his Protestant heredity, which contributed to making its realization "ruthlessly exact and austere". One obviously perceives a rigor in the behavior and dress of the people in The Family Gathering. More than their clothing, their looks are significant, each - except for Gaston Bazille - turning to us with a rather stern look.
There is a kind of "secret conjunction between the artist and his models", says Guérif, who devoted a thesis to the Protestant aspects of Bazille's painting [Guérif, 1943, p. 34]. But it seems to him that these people, though apparently austere, nevertheless express a "happy austerity". It is in this atmosphere that Bazille fits in and lives out his days in serenity. His presence in this painting is highly symbolic: it underlines his belonging to the family environment. But why does he relegate himself to this left corner, barely visible? Perhaps because it is difficult for him to represent himself. "I am currently working on my portrait in the painting of Méric, it gives me a lot of trouble", he wrote at the beginning of January 1868. He alludes to this problem again in a letter of January 20: "I did myself in the corner, I am not at all like myself, but that does nothing for the exhibition, especially to be refused. I will do it again in Montpellier".
Bazille's "great painting" was sent to the 1868 Salon. "At last the X... family will appear at the exhibition, I hope it will be seen, and I wish it to be shattered", he said in the second half of April 1868. The painting was accepted but the critics gave it few lines. Zola, after devoting a long passage to Monet, wrote that the painting "testifies to a lively love of truth" and added: "One sees that the painter loves his time" [Zola, "Mon Salon", 1868]. However brief his commentary, Zola captured the full significance of Bazille's painting. As for Castagnary, attracted as he was by Manet, Monet and Renoir, he barely noticed Bazille's painting, sorry, however, to see it "in the attic, not far from Monet's great Ships".
We are far from destructive or laudatory flights of fancy; The Family Gathering, though accepted at the Salon, went generally unnoticed. Bazille himself, who would have preferred criticism to indifference, made no comment. It was one of his compatriots from Montpellier who, under the pseudonym of J. Ixe, made the most reasoned analysis: "As for the general silhouette, the composition unfortunately scales like a panpipes, rising from right to left. I still want to insist on the picturesqueness of certain attitudes, and to say the accent of the physiognomies probably very similar, the frankness of certain pieces, obviously copied from nature; but the ground is more perpendicular than horizontal... the trunk so slender of the tree would not carry its large and heavy foliage. As for the background of the landscape, it is seen and done separately, the eye of the painter seeming to have moved, at the moment of its execution, from the main subject. M. Bazille, obviously a colorist and even something else if he wants to be honest, is really sympathetic to me by his qualities. If his faults make me somewhat malicious, I confess, it is because they have not even borrowed from the charlatanism of his neighbor the merit of being his own" [J. Ixe, Journal de Montpellier, May 23, 1868]. The neighbor, described as a charlatan, is obviously Monet, whose marine was exhibited next to Bazille's painting.
Ixe will be recognized for the accuracy of some of his remarks, especially when he speaks of "physiognomies that are probably very similar," of "the frankness of certain pieces, obviously copied from nature". One sometimes finds it difficult to follow him, however. The Family Gathering is in fact a brilliant page in Bazille's work: it shows that, having reached the middle of his short career, he could at once give his art the accent of classicism and that of modernity.
Several connections are in order here. Francastel sees this painting as a direct continuation of Monet's Femmes au jardin. The comparison is valid only for the subject itself, the two paintings being painted in a very different spirit. Bazille wanted to make his a family portrait, Monet a "country party," in which the identity of the people is of secondary importance. The assimilation therefore stops there as far as The Family Gathering is concerned, and the "fraternal friendship between Monet's youth and Bazille's" [Focillon, 1928, p. 212] of which Focillon speaks is irrelevant to the "image of the human being" in the landscape that these two painters give us. In this astonishing group portrait, there is, says Focillon, "a poetry of daguerreotype". Indeed Bazille has given a fixity to his figures not found in Monet because the figures in Femmes au jardin are in motion. In Early Impressionism and the Fashion Print, Mark Roskill believes he detects, in Monet's figures among others, the influence of the fashion prints of that period. This idea may also be true of Bazille, and could then help explain the stiffness of his figures. In any case, what brings him closer to Monet here is rather his sensitivity to light.
Here again, Bazille's talent is expressed through the choice and juxtaposition of colors, their delicacy, the blues of the women's toilets, soft, loose dresses that recall the blue of the Languedoc sky. The bodice of Thérèse des Hours in the foreground and that of Camille des Hours on the parapet, reveal the skin of their left arm. The polka-dot dresses - some fragments of which still exist in the family - identical to those of Monet, give a youthful accent to the painting, counterbalanced by the dark blue dress of Mrs Gaston Bazille, which a black shawl makes even more severe. Suzanne Tissié's striped dress is not as elegant, covered as it is by a sort of large black apron. Bazille noted the difference between his mother and her cousins, not only in dress but also in attitude. He made his cousins more supple, more relaxed, whereas Mrs Gaston Bazille is stiff, a feeling she does not give in her letters - affectionate - to her son.
The men are all equally marked with the seal of elegance and distinction. Each wears a white collar and bow, Eugène des Hours a soft hat, Emile Teulon a top hat. Elegance is provided by "a certain tendency to elongation as in Manet", says Daulte, which makes it seem as if each man is as tall as Bazille himself, when this was, it seems, not the case.
As for the graphic design which, for Gaston Poulain, constitutes the hallmark of pre-impressionism, it is, he says, "free of Manet's strong line", which is not, however, the opinion of Daulte for whom "the men's statures...are modeled in daylight, almost without reflections, delimited by black lines, which give them some rigidity" [Daulte, 1992, p. 136]. It seems to us, however, that these lines are little used here; and we more readily agree with the sentiment of Charensol, who, while acknowledging Manet's influence on Bazille, does not perceive it in The Family Gathering: "Along with Berthe Morisot, Bazille remains the only painter who has been directly and profoundly influenced by Edouard Manet. However, if we examine, for example, the works presented to us in the Luxembourg, we see that, in the most remarkable one, this influence does not manifest itself in any way... this Family Gathering... contains certain awkwardnesses that we no longer find in Studio of [de la rue La Condamine], which is three years later: the landscape is a little too green, the sky a little too blue, the faces a little too linear, and the composition rather loose... One can say, certainly, that all this is worth more by the drawing than by the color" [Charensol, L'Amour de l'Art, 1927, No. 1, p. 28]. Admittedly, The Family Gathering is not the most blatant evidence one can find to demonstrate Manet's influence on Bazille, the Portrait of Alphonse Tissié in a Cavalryman's Uniform and the Portrait of a dragoon being certainly better examples.
The Family Gathering is a masterpiece in which we find summarized the great researches of painting at that time. It sheds light on Bazille's affinities and highlights his social, familial and, of course, artistic idiosyncrasies. One of his essential preoccupations was to integrate his characters into the landscape in the open air. Joubin even wondered in this regard whether posterity would not give him the glory of having created the modern technique of modeling figures in light. The Family Gathering fully proves him right.
Other artists have taken a similar "portrait gallery" as their theme, beginning with Charles-François Daubigny in his Réunion sous les arbres. Marandel also rightly likens Bazille's painting to James Tissot's Balcon du Cercle de la rue Royale, painted in 1867, which is also a portrait gallery - of men only - marked by a conformism from which The Family Gathering is exempt. Caillebotte, in turn, from the same social background as Bazille and also a Protestant, would paint a Portrait à la campagne in 1876. It is an austere scene. "Caillebotte, however, benefits from the contribution of Impressionism, which allows him to translate with more freedom and immediacy a scene of everyday life", writes Marie Bérhaut [Bérhaut, Cat. raisonné Caillebotte, 1978, p. 41]. Yet Bazille was capable of this "immediacy"; his drawings prove it and show that everything about life in Méric was deeply important to him. Auguste Pégurier's Jardin des Tournels (1883) represents an identical scene. Later, finally, is Réunion de femmes et d'enfants by Maurice Marinot exhibited at the 1909 Salon. We can thus see to what extent these artists could, while working in similar directions, propose different solutions.
Let us finally note that the real name of The Family Gathering, the one Bazille had given it and under which it appeared at the Salon, is Portraits of the XXX Family. It would be difficult to go back today on a usage that has become established. But each of the two titles has its own justification; indeed, each emphasizes an essential aspect of the painting, as remarkable for the strength of the family bond it expresses as it is as a gallery of individual portraits.
If you are interested in the family relationships of the Bazilles, Vialars, and other cousins, we recommend the genealogical site of Patricia Pagézy-Wiriath, a descendant of Camille des Hours. We thank her especially for the information we have drawn from it about these families.