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Frédéric Bazille

The Digital Catalogue Raisonné

by Michel Schulman
© The Museums of Fine Arts, Houston

The Little Gardener

Huile sur toile
128 x 168,9 cm - 50 3/8 x 66 1/2 in.
Houston, Houston Museum of Fine Arts, Etats-Unis - Inv. 76.236
Dernière mise à jour : 2022-04-03 06:23:30
Référence : MSb-26


Famille de l’artiste - Frédéric Bazille, neveu de l’artiste - Collection particulière - Jacques Fischer, Paris - The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (The John A. and Audrey Jones Beck Collec­tion).


Montpellier, Exposition internationale, 1927, Rétrospective Bazille, n° 32 [Sous le titre Parc de Méric] - Montpellier, musée Fabre, 1941, n° 22 - Paris, galerie Wildenstein, 1950, n° 19 - Mont­pellier, musée Fabre, 1959, n° 11 - Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago, 1978, n° 19, repr. p. 58.


Poulain, Bazille et ses amis, 1932, n° 22, pp. 86, 100, 215 - Sarraute, Catalogue de l'œuvre de Frédéric Bazille, 1948, n° 14, pp. 29, 103 [Thèse de l'Ecole du Louvre non publiée] - Daulte, Bazille et son temps, 1952, n° 1, pp. 63, 116, 133-134, 149, 152 et p. 177, n° 2 (repr.) [Thèse  sous la direction de Gaston Poulain] - Marandel, Cat. exp. The Art Institute of Chicago, 1978, n° 19, repr. 58 - A Guide to the Collection, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1981, n° 178 - Daulte, Frédéric Bazille : Catalogue raisonné de l'œuvre peint, 1992, n° 7,  pp. 60, 113, 130, 146 et p. 166, n° 30 (repr.) [Réédition de 1952 avec photos en couleur] - Michel, Bazille, 1992, p. 156 - Bajou, Frédéric Bazille, 1993, p. 72 (repr.) - Schulman, Frédéric Bazille : Catalogue raisonné, 1995, n° 26, repr. p. 145 - Hilaire, Jones, Perrin, Cat. exp. Montpellier, Paris, Washington, 2016-2017, fig. 13, repr. p. 33 [Les références sont du catalogue en français] - Schulman, Frédéric Bazille : Catalogue raisonné numérique, 2022, n° 26.

In the park of Méric, a young man waters flowers. To the left, barely sketched, a woman, kneeling, seems to be picking some. This is The Little Gardener of which Bazille speaks in a letter of August 1866: "If it is too hot to go to Aigues-Mortes, I will postpone this little trip to October before the strong heat [Lapsus or transcription error, it should be understood "after the strong heat"] and I will be able to resume my view of Méric with a gardener, which I had abandoned last year".

There are two preparatory drawings for Le Petit Jardinier, both in album of the Orsay Museum, Study for The Little Gardener and  the other Study for The Little Gardener. To tell the truth, the first one has only its subject in common with the painting. The second is closer to it, but there are still some notable differences: from the latter drawing to the painting, the flower bed changes and, even more so, the character and his movement. The sprinkler in the drawing is a middle-aged man, wearing a wide-brimmed hat and a shirt tied around the waist with what appears to be a belt. The sprinkler in the painting is much more like a young man from a good family. He has the attributes of a young man of good family: elegant hat, shirt and pants with city colors rather than country colors. These differences lead us to believe that this may not be the same character. A year passed between the time Bazille began his painting and the time he took it up. This may explain why he did not find the same model. From the drawing to the painting, the landscape also changes. The drawing shows an enclosed garden, whereas in the painting the garden is wide open. We see a beautiful bed of oleanders, as in the painting of that name, with, on the right, a cedar with wide branches.

It is the harmony of colors that makes The Little Gardener an attractive painting. First the gardener's pink shirt and light beige pants, then the huge clump of laurel trees, all dominated by a clear blue sky, barely speckled with a few white clouds. The atmosphere is truly Languedoc.

Bazille's idea is to harmoniously integrate his character into the landscape. He succeeds in doing this through the colors and a lively technique that is expressed in the foreground and in the cedar tree. Did Bazille rework or retouch his painting? He does not say, but the trunk of the cedar is cut by a horizontal line, presumably added.

A final question arises: did Bazille leave this work unfinished? Judging by the size of the painting, he intended it to be a major work. We can then think that in one year, his intentions have evolved. It is also possible that, from that moment on, he had in mind to make the Oleanders.

In The Little Gardener, we breathe in the scents of Monet's Jardin en fleurs à Sainte-Adresse, which he also executed in 1866.

Related Works

Oeuvre en rapport
Etude pour Le Petit Jardinier - Dessin au crayon - Musée d'Orsay (MSb-233)
Oeuvre en rapport
Etude pour Le Petit Jardinier - Fusain - Musée d'Orsay (MSb-266)