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Frédéric Bazille

The Digital Catalogue Raisonné

by Michel Schulman
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Portrait of Sisley

Huile sur bois
27,9 x 31 cm - 11 x 12 3/16 in.
Collection particulière
Dernière mise à jour : 2022-04-03 06:23:37
Référence : MSb-29


M. Dunan - Wildenstein, Paris - Disparu en 1940.


As far as we know, never exhibited


Poulain, Bazille et ses amis, 1932, n° 27, pp. 69, 101, 104, 216 - Schmidt, Le Semeur,  juin 1935 - Romane-Musculus, Prière des mains, 1938, p. 177 - Venturi, Les Archives de l'Impressionnisme, 1939, t. I - Scheyer, Art Quarterly, printemps 1942 - Rewald, Histoire de l'Impressionnisme, 1946, p. 140, repr. p. 158 - Sarraute, Catalogue de l'œuvre de Frédric Bazille, 1948, n° 55, p. 119 [Thèse de l'Ecole du Louvre non publiée] - Daulte, Bazille et son temps, 1952, n° 33, pp. 131, 143, 146 et p. 179 (repr.) [Thèse sous la direction de Gaston Poulain] - Courthion, Autour de l'Impressionnisme, 1964, repr. p. 28 - Blunden, Journal de l'impressionnisme, 1970, repr. p. 43 -  Bonafoux, Impressionnistes. Portraits et Confidences, 1986, p. 56 (repr.) - Daulte, Frédéric Bazille : Catalogue raisonné de l'œuvre peint, 1992, n° 36, pp. 168-169  (repr.) et pp. 127, 137, 141 [Réédition de 1952 avec photos en couleur] - Michel, Bazille, 1992, p. 70 - Bajou, Frédéric Bazille, 1993, p. 90 (repr.) - Schulman, Frédéric Bazille : Catalogue raisonné, 1995, n° 29, repr. p. 148 en noir et blanc - Schulman, Frédéric Bazille : Catalogue raisonné numérique, 2022, n° 29.

Aucun des commentateurs semblent avoir connu le tableau autrement que par cette photo en noir et blanc. Il nous semble donc devoir relativiser leurs propos et leurs commentaires.

Is this Portrait of Sisley the one Bazille refers to repeatedly when he says: "I am making a portrait of a friend of mine"? Bazille hardly ever mentions Sisley in his correspondence, although he had known him at the Gleyre studio at the same time as Monet and Renoir. Hence Poulain's doubt on the matter. However, we must date this painting, as the latter does, to the second half of 1867. "This painting is undeniably related to the Parisian series of the painter's works", he says [Poulain, 1932, p. 104]. In fact, it can very accurately be compared to the Self-Portrait with a Detachable Collar by its technique and contrasts.

The Portrait of Sisley, which, according to Romane-Musculus, was also called Man with a Pipe, presents Sisley seen from the front, looking toward us, holding a pipe in his right hand from which he takes long puffs. Sisley is lying down, his head resting on a sort of cushion. His eyes are thoughtful and pensive, his face partly hidden by an imposing mustache and long sideburns.

Portrait d'Alfred Sisley, Auguste Renoir, 1868, Emil G. Bührle, Zurich
Portrait d'Alfred Sisley, Auguste Renoir, 1868, Emil G. Bührle, Zurich
This presumed portrait by Sisley contrasts, like Renoir's, with some of the others painted by Bazille, more formal portraits. Here Sisley adopts an original pose like Renoir. On the other hand, it makes think of Manet's 1876 portrait of Stéphane Mallarmé: the writer is depicted sitting on a sofa, adopting a familiar pose, his left hand in a pocket, his right hand holding a cigar and leafing through the page of a book. In the Portrait of Zacharie Astruc by Bazille, the latter, too, recalls that sort of casualness, but Astruc, holding a cigar in his left hand, does not give the impression of familiarity that emerges from the Portrait of Sisley. Clearly, Astruc is posing for Bazille, which does not seem to be the case with Sisley.

This portrait is interesting for the game of contrasts and light. As Poulain says, we notice the "violently white color of the pipe" that recalls the "paleness of the face highlighted by the dark masses that surround and concentrate it" [Poulain, 1932, p. 104]. In fact, Bazille plays with the masses of light here in the same way he will do in the Self-Portrait with a Detachable Collar. The basic construction of the painting nevertheless gives it a more familiar aspect. It is true that Bazille has framed it on Sisley's face, a tight framing that leaves no room for what surrounds Sisley.

Ernest Scheyer, no doubt taking up false information from Lionello Venturi, says that this painting was executed at Honfleur in 1867 [Scheyer, Art Quarterly, Spring 1942]. Yet Bazille made, as far as we know, only one stay in this region... in 1864.