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Frédéric Bazille

The Digital Catalogue Raisonné

by Michel Schulman
© Musée d'Orsay, Paris

Portrait of Renoir

Huile sur toile
61 x 50 cm - 24 x 19 3/4 in.
Paris, Musée d'Orsay, France - Inv. DL.1970.3
Dernière mise à jour : 2022-04-03 06:23:37
Référence : MSb-30


Don de Frédéric Bazille à Auguste Renoir - Claude Renoir - Vendu au musée national des Beaux-Arts d’Alger en 1935 - En dépôt au musée du Louvre, puis au musée d'Orsay depuis 1986.


Cannes, musée des Beaux-Arts, 1929, La Provence et ses peintres au XIXe siècle, n° 5 - Paris, galerie Wildenstein, 1950, n° 51 - Tokyo, Kyoto, 1961, Exposition d’Art français, 1840-1940, n° 58 - Marseille, musée Cantini, 1982-1983, L’Orient des Provençaux. Chefs-d’œuvre du musée d'Alger, n° 1 - Montpellier, New York, 1992-1993, n° 44, repr. p. 139 - Madrid, Fundacion Mapfre, 2010, Impressionismo. Un nuevo renacimiento, cat. 16, repr. p. 129 - Montpellier, Paris, Washington, 2016-2017, cat. 49, repr. p. 245 et p. 37 [Les références sont du catalogue en français] - Montpellier, musée Fabre, en dépôt jusqu'à la fin 2021.


Rivière, Renoir et ses amis, 1921, p. 11 - Poulain, Bazille et ses amis, 1932, n° 18, pp. 69, 84, 214 - Alazard, Catalogue des peintures et sculptures du musée national des Beaux-Arts d'Alger, 1939, p. 29, repr. pl. XXXV - Scheyer, 1942, Frédéric Bazille : The Beginning of Impressionism, p. 122 - Sarraute, Catalogue de l'œuvre de Frédéric Bazille, 1948, n° 36, p. 86 [Thèse de l'Ecole du Louvre non publiée] - Daulte, Arts, 9 juin 1950 - Daulte, 1952, Bazille et son temps, n° 22, p. 175 [Thèse sous la direction de Gaston Poulain] - Mathey, 1959, Les impressionnistes et leur temps, repr. p. 33 - Cooper, Burlington Magazine, mai 1959, A Study of Renoir's Early Development - Blunden, 1970, Journal de l'impressionnisme, p. 43 (repr.) - Daulte, déc. 1970, Connaissance des Arts, p. 90 - Champa, Studies in Early Impressionism, 1973, p. 86, repr. p. 119 - Adhémar, Distel, Catalogue du musée du Jeu de Paume, Paris, 1977, repr. p. 12 - Bellony-Rewald, 1977, Le monde retrouvé des impressionnistes, repr. p. 31 - Daulte,  L'Oeil, avril 1978, p. 40 - Bazin, 1982, Univers impressionniste, repr. coul. p. 22 - Georgel, Catalogue exp. Dijon, 1982-1983, La peinture dans la peinture, fig. 265, p. 148 - Adhémar, Dayez, 1983, Musée du Jeu de Paume, p. 151, repr. p. 12 - Renoir, 1985, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, mon père, p. 66 - Bonafoux, 1986, Les Impressionnistes. Portraits et Confidences, p. 50 (repr.) - Bernard, 1991, La Révolutionn impressionniste, repr. p. 60 - Daulte, 1992, Frédéric Bazille : Catalogue raisonné de l'œuvre peint, n° 24, pp. 127, 138, 163 (repr.) (repr. coul. p. 126) [Réédition de 1952 avec photos en couleur] - Vuatone, Cat. exp. Montpellier, New York, 1992-1993, n° 44, repr. p. 139 - Bajou, Frédéric Bazille, 1993, p. 154 (repr.) - Schulman, Frédéric Bazille : Catalogue raisonné, 1995, n° 30, repr. p. 149 - Hilaire, Jones, Perrin, Cat. exp. Montpellier, Paris, Washington, 2016-2017, cat. 49, repr. p. 245  [Les références sont du catalogue en français] - Schulman, Frédéric Bazille : Catalogue raisonné numérique, 2022, n° 30.

Bazille met Renoir in 1863 at the Gleyre studio. From there, a friendship was born,  which Renoir would keep for the rest of his life. In 1867, Renoir painted Bazille at his easel. Then, it was Bazille's turn to paint Renoir, but in a completely different way.

In fact, he represents him seated, with his knees bent over his chest, his feet resting on the edge of a chair. He has his arms on his knees and his hands crossed. Turned three-quarters, he wears a thin beard and moustache, elegant in his black painter's jacket, white shirt, and blue tie.

Artists often painted each other; this is part of a tradition that goes back to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. With regard to the nineteenth, Georgel writes: "The avant-garde groups gathered in Hommage à Delacroix and in Fantin-Latour's L'Atelier aux Batignolles, have calm attitudes, thoughtful expressions, as if to oppose a denial to those who see them as pranksters" [Georgel, Exhibition catalogue, Dijon, 1982-1983].

In fact, these paintings had a claim value; they were manifestos where artists expressed themselves, just as they did in fashionable cafés. It was there that they engaged in oratorical jousting against the proponents of official art. There is nothing conformist about the Portrait of Renoir by Bazille. Renoir is not presented here as a "prankster" but as the friend who shares Bazille's studio and thus a part of his life. This is how the latter sees him in any case, who makes a painting whose style, color, and brushstroke are closer to the avant-gardisme of the time than to the classicism from which he did not always depart.

The form is dynamic and jerky. This can be seen in the graphism of the fingers as well as in the folds of the pants and in the treatment of the background, with smooth but broad strokes, some of which encircle  Renoir. According to Poulain, here Bazille favors form over color. But we only partly agree with him, for the color is by no means neglected despite the vigor of the form, and it is not underlying it as he seems to think.

This painting is ultimately closer to the Portrait of Alphonse Tissié in a Cavalryman's Uniform and Self-Portrait in Shirt Sleeves than to the Portrait of Edmond Maître or to The Fortune Teller. In the Portrait of Renoir, Bazille relied on a simplicity that works perfectly for him.

Thanks to the X-rays done by the Louvre's laboratory on the occasion of the 2016-2017 exhibition, an unfinished still life in underlying paint was discovered. The bold workmanship of the painting has led some scholars to reclassify its commonly accepted date to 1868 or 1869. In the absence of documents, it seems difficult to decide with certainty. However, it must be kept in mind that Bazille's work is not linear. It is therefore not surprising that he could have done, at the same time, The Family Gathering and this Portrait de Renoir, one being a social and official portrait and therefore diligent; the second one, a painting done out of pure friendship that translates into spontaneity.

Related Works

Oeuvre en rapport
Portrait de Renoir - Huile sur toile - 40,5 x 32,5 cm - Cleveland Museum of Art (MSb-31)
Oeuvre en rapport
Portrait de Verlaine - Huile sur toile - 57,2 x 41,1 cm - Collection particulière (MSb-41)