drapeau français english flag
logo catalogue Bazille
Frédéric Bazille

The Digital Catalogue Raisonné

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

Reclining Nude

Huile sur toile
70,5 x 190,5 cm - 27 1/4 x 70 3/4 in.
Signé et daté en bas à droite : F. B. 64
Montpellier, Musée Fabre, France - Inv. 18.1.1
Dernière mise à jour : 2023-12-22 18:37:35
Référence : MSb-6


Marc Bazille, frère de l’artiste - Don de Marc Bazille au musée Fabre en 1918.


Paris, Grand Palais, Salon d'automne, 1910, Rétropective Bazille, n° 3 - Montpellier, Exposition internationale, 1927, Rétropective Bazille, n° 2 - Paris, musée de l'Orangerie, 1939, n° 3 - Berne,  Kunsthalle, 1939, n° 2 - Montpellier, musée Fabre, 1941, n° 9 - Paris, galerie Wildenstein, 1950, n° 8 - Montpellier, musée Fabre, 1959, n° 3 - Montpellier, musée Fabre, 1971-1972, Hommage à Frédéric Bazille (s.n.) - Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago, 1978, n° 8, repr. p. 43 - Montpellier, musée Fabre, 1978, Le nu, n° 35, (n.p.) (repr.) - Montpellier, musée Fabre, 1985, n° 36 - Montpellier, musée Fabre, 1991-1992, fig. 13, p. 18 - Montpellier, New York, 1992-1993, n° 4, repr. p. 81 - Montpellier, musée Fabre, 2001 (n.n.) - Paris, musée Marmottan Monet, 2003-2004, cat. 3, repr. p. 29 - Tokyo, Ibaraki, Yamanashi, Osaka, Nagasaki, 2005-2006, n° 71 - Montpellier, Paris, Washington, 2016-2017, cat. 10, repr. p. 222 et p. 26 [Les références sont du catalogue en français].


Joubin, Catalogue des peintures et sculptures exposées dans les galeries du musée Fabre à Montpellier, 1926, n° 359, p. 114 - Poulain, La Renaissance de l'art français et des industries de luxe, avril 1927, n° 4, p. 166 - Poulain, Bazille et ses amis, 1932, n° 2,  pp. 52, 211 - Gillet, Le Trésor des musées de province, 1935, p. 242 - Joubin, Beaux-Arts, 24 mars 1939, pp. 1-2 - Goulinat, Le dessin, mars 1939, p. 454 - Guérif, A la recherche d'une esthétique protestante, 1943, pp. 25-26 - Prinçay, Cahiers du sud, 1947, p. 869 - Sarraute, Catalogue de l'œuvre de Frédéric Bazille, 1948, n° 3, p. 6 [Thèse du musée du Louvre non publiée] - Claparède, Réforme, juin 1950, p. 5 - Sarraute, Cat. exp. galerie Wildenstein, 1950, n° 8 - Daulte, Bazille et son temps, 1952, n° 3, pp. 127, 168 [Thèse sous la direction de Gaston Poulain] - Claparède, 1965, Catalogue du musée Fabre, t. IV, p. 19 [Non publiée] - Gourg, Vision sur les Arts, 1970, n° 66 - Champa, Studies in Early Impressionism, 1973, fig. 113, p. 88 - Marandel, Cat. exp. The Art Institute of Chicago, 1978, n° 9, repr. p. 43 - Dejan, Cat. exp. musée Fabre, 1978, Le nu, n° 35, (n.p.) (repr.) - Boime, The Academy and French Painting in the 19th Century, 1986, fig. 102, p. 117 et p. 120 - Le Pichon, L'érotisme des chers Maîtres, 1986, p. 156 - Jourdan, Cat. exp. Montpellier, 1991-1992, p. 18 - Daulte, Frédéric Bazille : Catalogue raisonné de l'œuvre peint, 1992, n° 3, pp. 17, 121, 154 (repr.) [Réédition de 1952 avec photos en couleur] - Michel, Bazille, 1992, p. 249 - Jourdan, Cat. exp. Montpellier, New York, 1992-1993, n° 4, pp. 80-81 - Bajou, Frédéric Bazille, 1993, p. 53 (repr.) - Bonafoux, 1994, Bazille : les plaisirs et les jours, p. 36 - Schulman, Frédéric Bazille : Catalogue raisonné, 1995, n° 6, repr. p. 110 - Pitman, Bazille : Purity, Pose and Painting in the 1860s, p. 71 - Hilaire, Cat. exp. Tokyo, Ibaraki, Yamanashi, Osaka, Nagasaki, 2005-2006, n° 71 - Hilaire, Jones, Perrin, Cat. exp. Montpellier, Paris, Washington, 2016-2017, n° 10, repr. p. 222 [Les références sont du catalogue en français] - Schulman, Frédéric Bazille : Catalogue raisonné numérique, 2022, n° 6.

Because of its subject matter, format, and date of execution, the Reclining Nude holds an important place in Bazille's work. In a letter of June 1864, he wrote: "I am working hard on a study of a woman of natural size, which I would like to bring to you if I don't do it too badly. This is most likely the Reclining Nude for which we only know of a preparatory drawing, Study of Study of a Reclining Nude.

Nu allongé, Charles Gleyre, musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts, Lausanne
Nu allongé, Charles Gleyre, musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts, Lausanne
Among Bazille's sources of inspiration are, as Marandel does, Guido Cagnacci's Jeune Martyr [Fabre Museum, Montpellier], but especially the Reclining Nude, a study for La danse des Bacchantes by Gleyre [Musée cantonal, Lausanne]. Bazille repeats the pose of this one. The woman is reclining, her right arm extended along her body, her left arm in the air. One of the changes he makes is precisely in the position of the left arm, about which Claparède speaks of "gaucherie" [Claparède, 24 June 1950, p. 5]. The other difference concerns what we might call the "staging" of the painting. While Gleyre's woman is depicted completely naked, Bazille's woman has modestly covered her hips with an embroidered drapery that makes her, as Albert Boime puts it, "less voluptuous" [Boime, 1974-1975]. Other objects accentuate this difference, such as the addition of a drapery, a large cushion under the woman's head and a pipe at her feet. But Bazille had certainly seen the splendid and voluptuous nudes by Delacroix and the more erotic nudes by Courbet. It is undoubtedly Poulain who finds the most accurate words to define this work when he regrets "the cold tone, the meticulous writing... which denounce the beginner" [Poulain, 1932, p. 52].

Through his character, Bazille studied anatomy, which was the central object of his first drawings at the Gleyre studio, and he succeeded rather well. As for color, Poulain speaks of a "verism that prevents him - Bazille -  from indulging in the orgy of color so dear to Renoir and Monet" [Poulain, 1932, p. 52]. His palette remains monochromatic, selecting mainly browns and ochres, rarely enhanced with discreet red. On close look, Manet's Olympia and Bazille's Reclining Nude are similar in the silky color of the drapery, which in both cases highlights the painting.

This is the first time Bazille painted a "natural size" picture [Letter of June 1864] and also the first time he presented his work to his parents. We can understand his "maneuver" here; Bazille wanted to convince them to give up his medical studies to devote himself to painting. However, one will not fail to be surprised by Bazille's request to pursue his medical studies in Paris while the Faculty of Medicine in Montpellier has then of world-wide reputation.

This painting has had several names, of which Nude Study is the first, given by Joubin in the Fabre Museum's inventory in 1918. As the 2016-2017 exhibition catalogue states, "the following authors will all use the appellation Nu couché: Poulain 1932, Sarraute 1948, Claparède 1950" and ourself currently.

In the catalogue of the 2016-2017 exhibition, Stanislas Colodiet offers a further comparative study of this work. He properly points out that this "Reclining Nude is the painting of a gaze just like The Pink Dress, another female painting with a fleeing face that Bazille executed a few months apart".  How can we explain this enigmatic attraction of Bazille to his model? Does Bazille not respond to this direct gaze that Manet's model poses in the Olympia that he probably saw during a dinner at the Mamignard's on January 1, 1864, wonders the author. This is undoubtedly all the distance that is expressed here between Bazille and Manet, the explanation of which will probably be found in the latter's education.

In his correspondence, Bazille casts a modest veil over his romantic relationships. When he speaks of marriage, it is to procrastinate and renounce it, thus marking all the ambiguity of his relationships with women.

We can conclude that in this painting, Bazille has not yet freed himself from Gleyre's teaching and remains faithful to neo-classicism.

Related Works

Oeuvre en rapport
Etude de nu couché - Fusain sur papier - 42 x 57 cm - Musée Fabre (MSb-99)