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Frédéric Bazille

The Digital Catalogue Raisonné

by Michel Schulman
© Musée Fabre, Montpellier Méditerranée Métropole / photographie Frédéric Jaulmes

Still Life with Heron

Huile sur toile
98 x 78 cm - 38 9/16 x 30 11/16 in.
Signé et daté en bas à gauche : F. Bazille 1867
Montpellier, Musée Fabre, France - Inv. 898.5.2
Dernière mise à jour : 2022-04-03 06:23:39
Référence : MSb-38


Emporté par Gaston Bazille à Montpellier en décembre 1868 - Don de Mme Gaston Bazille au musée Fabre en 1898 [Sous le titre Nature morte, gibier].


Montpellier, Exposition internationale, 1927, Rétrospective Bazille, n° 9 - Paris, musée de l’Orangerie, 1939, Chefs d’œuvre du musée de Montpellier, n° 4 - Berne, Kunsthalle, 1939, Meisterwerke des Museums in Montpellier, n° 3 - Montpellier, musée Fabre, 1941, n° 24 - Paris, galerie Wildenstein, 1950, n° 38 (repr.) - Rotterdam, musée Boymans-van-Beuningen, 1954, Vier Eeuwen stilleven in Frankrijk, n° 96 - Montpellier, musée Fabre, 1959, n° 25 - Montpellier, musée Fabre, 1970-1971, Hommage à Frédéric Bazille [s.n.] - Bordeaux, musée des Beaux-Arts, 1974, Naissance de l’impressionnisme, n° 85, repr. p. 122 - Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago, 1978, n° 24, repr. coul. p. 6 et p. 66 - Bordeaux, musée des Beaux-Arts, 1991-1992, Trophées de Chasse, n° 46 (repr.) - Montpellier, musée Fabre, 1991-1992, fig. 17, p. 19  - Jourdan, Catalogue exp. Montpellier, New York, 1992-1993, n° 14, repr. p. 96 - Paris, New York, 1994-1995, Impressionnisme. Les origines 1859-1874,  n° 8, pp. 332-333, repr. pl. 217 - Montpellier, musée Fabre, 2001 [s.n.] - Canberra, National Gallery of Australia, 2003-2004, n° 79 - Paris, musée Marmottan Monet, 2003-2004, [n.n.], repr. p. 64 - Montpellier, Paris, Washington, 2016-2017, cat. 43, repr. p. 241  et p. 97 [Les références sont du catalogue en français].


Joubin, Catalogue des peintures, sculptures du musée Fabre, Montpellier, 1926, n° 360, p. 114 - Poulain, Bazille et ses amis, 1932, n° 26, pp. 102-104, 216 - Gillet, Le Trésor des musées de province, 1935, p. 241 - Descossy, Sur 20 tableaux du musée Fabre, 1938, p. 91 - Joubin, Beaux-Arts, 24 mars 1939 - Goulinat, Le dessin, mars 1939, p. 454 - Sjôberg, La Revue des jeunes, 10 avril 1941, n° 24 - Poulain, Itinéraires, nov. 1942, p. 27 - Guérif, A la recherche d'une esthétique protestante, 1943, p. 32 - Claparède, Languedoc d'hier et d'aujourd'hui, 1947, p. 237 - Prinçay, Cahiers du sud, 1947, p. 869 - Sarraute, Catalogue de l'œuvre de Frédéric Bazille, 1948, n° 27, pp. 63-64 - Claparède, Réforme, 24 juin 1950 - Wildenstein, Arts, 9 juin 1950, p. 8 (repr.) - Sarraute, Catalogue exp. galerie Wildenstein, 1950, n° 38 - Lacôte, Arts de France, oct. 1950, pp. 44-46 - Daulte, Bazille et son temps, 1952, n° 32, p. 179 (repr.) - Daulte, L'Oeil, fév. 1957, p. 48 (repr.) - Claparède, Catalogue du musée Fabre, 1965 [Dactylographié - Non publié] - Daulte, Connaissance des Arts, déc. 1970, p. 90 - Rewald, Histoire de l'Impressionnisme, 1971, n° 118, repr. p. 228 - Rewald,  Histoire de l'Impressionnisme, 1973, p. 182 - Rewald, Histoire de l'Impressionnisme, 1976, repr. p. 228, pl. 118 - Daulte, L'Oeil, avril 1978, n° 12, repr. p. 43 - Marandel, Catalogue exp. The Art Institute of Chicago, 1978, n° 24, repr. p. 66 -  Schulze, Art in America, sept. oct. 1978, n° 5 - Gache-Patin, Lassaigne, Sisley, 1983, n° 69, p. 158 (repr.) - Catalogue exp. Paris, Grand Palais, 1985, Renoir, fig. 13, repr. p. 72 - Bajou, Chefs d'œuvre de la peinture, 1988, p. 182, repr. p. 183 - Daulte, Frédéric Bazille : Catalogue raisonné de l'œuvre peint, 1992, repr. coul. p. 52 et p. 168, n° 35 [Réédition de 1952 avec photos en couleur] - Jourdan, Catalogue exp. Montpellier, New York, 1992-1993, n° 14, pp. 96-97, repr. p. 97 - Bajou, Frédéric Bazille, 1993, p. 122 (repr.) - Bonafoux, Bazille : les plaisirs et les jours, 1994, p. 24 - Schulman, Frédéric Bazille : Catalogue raisonné, 1995, n° 38, repr. p. 167 - Pitman, Catalogue exp. Atlanta, High Museum, 1999, fig. 20, repr. p. 48, pp. 48-51 - Hilaire, Jones, Perrin, Catalogue exp. Montpellier, Paris, Washington, 2016-2017, cat. 43, repr. p. 241 et p. 97 [Les références sont du catalogue en français] - Schulman, Frédéric Bazille : Catalogue raisonné numérique, 2022, n° 38.

Among his few still lives of animals, the Still Life with Heron is, along with the Still Life with Fish, the most important one Bazille made, not only artistically but also historically, since it was the occasion for another painting, this time by Renoir, the Portrait de Bazille.

The Still Life with Heron was painted in early 1868. Around January 20, Bazille in fact announced to his parents that he had "done two large still lives in the last two days", of which he was in fact not very happy. "However there is one with a great grey heron and jays, which is not bad, and which I will send to the Teulons, if the one I am finishing at the moment is not better. The latter is the Vase of Flowers on a Console.

In this large, high painting, Bazille has painted a heron hanging by its legs from a string, head down and wings spread resting on a white tablecloth spread over a sideboard. Dead jays lie on either side of the heron. In the background, a shotgun, leaning against a chest of drawers, whose copper lock can be seen, and a bag, emptied of the products of the hunt. The subject is simple and the composition of great sobriety, which caused Claparède to write that this work "as elegant as an Oudry - with less artifice in the arrangement - is extremely refined in color, built in grays with some precious blues; it offers that economy of means so frequent in the most beautiful French painters" [Claparède, Réforme, June 24, 1950].

As in The Scoter and even the Still Life with Fish, Bazille indeed succeeds in his painting by staying in subdued tones. Here, he uses a set of colors that complement each other: grays, blacks, blues and ochres. It can be said that in the Still Life with Heron, Bazille gives his best.

This is actually very different from The Scoter and the Two Herrings; it is closer to the Still Life with Fish in the overall vision he possesses of his subject, this vision being translated by the harmony of colors. It is Poulain who best describes the refinement shown here by Bazille: "Here again, gray governs his palette, lightening into down on the belly, to borrow steely reflections on the wings of the bird, whose death has not curbed the breadth of flight, where it caresses all the feathers, spreading a muted harmony, a suave melancholy" [Poulain, 1932, pp. 102-103]. Poulain rightly notices the gray and silky plumage of the heron which gives it all its voluptuousness. Other chromatic values would probably not have rendered the same effect.

Héron aux ailes déployées, Alfred Sisley, musée Fabre, Montpellier
Héron aux ailes déployées, Alfred Sisley, musée Fabre, Montpellier
Bazille inspired Sisley, who also did a Héron aux ailes déployées. Bazille is in slippers in Renoir's painting. He is therefore the one who welcomes Sisley who has come to paint the Heron by his side, and not the other way around. Both paintings have the same subject, the same sober position of a piece of game placed on a table highlighted by gray, fine and delicate. Monet, too, had taken this theme in his painting Trophée de chasse in the Orsay Museum (1864). Should we see in this still life by Bazille an "economy of means"? Sisley and Bazille certainly painted the same subject side by side.

Bazille's Still Life with Heron aroused the interest and curiosity of Renoir. The latter undoubtedly took this pretext to make his famous Portrait of Bazille, who is seen painting his Heron, whose black, white, and ochre colors recall those of his painting in progress.

Gaston Bazille appreciated the Still Life with Heron when he discovered it in his son's studio. He wrote to his wife, "I examined his old and new paintings. By dint of insistence I have wrung one out of him by force, or at least he has earnestly promised to send it to me tomorrow so that I can take it with me on Friday evening. They are birds, a heron hanging from a nail by the leg and jays on top of a sideboard". Bazille reacted in turn on January 1, 1869: "Daddy wanted to take a still life of mine with all his might, which was very unpleasant for me. I very much hope that you will not hang it in a place where strangers can see it".

The Still Life with Heron thus took the direction of Montpellier and was given by Mrs Gaston Bazille to the Fabre Museum in 1898. As the article in the 2016-2017 exhibition catalogue points out, "This painting is among the first works by the artist to enter the public heritage of Montpellier" [P. 99].

This painting is in fact a celebration of the hunting that Bazille and his father were passionate about. The dead game but also the rifle in the background placed against a wooden chest are symbols of this "favorite pastime" of the Bazilles. Frédéric's letters allude to this on several occasions. But if hunting is a hobby, it is also the mark of a certain social status and it is not surprising to see the Bazille family indulging in it.

Because of its exceptional character, because the subject was taken up by famous artists of the time, Bazille's painting was part of many exhibitions that brought it to the pinnacle of Impressionist painting.