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Frédéric Bazille

The Digital Catalogue Raisonné

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

The Scoter

Huile sur toile
46 x 38 cm - 18 5/8 x 15 3/4 in.
Signé en bas à gauche : F. B
Montpellier, Musée Fabre, France - Inv. 2012.8.1
Dernière mise à jour : 2022-04-09 21:49:47
Référence : MSb-12


Famille de l’artiste - André Bazille, neveu de l'artiste - Mme Rachou-Bazille - Collection particulière - Vente Sotheby's, New York, 3 mai 2012, n° 140 - Montpellier, musée Fabre, 2012.


Montpellier, musée Fabre, 1927, n° 35 [Signalé par erreur au n° 37] - Montpellier, musée Fabre, 1941, n° 12 - Paris, galerie Wildenstein, 1950, n° 12 - Montpellier, musée Fabre, 1959, n° 6 - Tokyo, Wildenstein Gallery, 8-18 octobre 1973 (repr.) - New York, Wildenstein Gallery, 1975, n° 3 - Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago, 1978, n° 11, repr. p. 45 - Atlanta, High Museum of Art, 1999, n° 15, repr. p. 50 - Revue des musées de France, octobre 2012, repr. p. 212 -  Montpellier, Paris, Washington, 2016-2017, cat. 12, repr. p. 224 et p. 101 [Les références sont du catalogue en français].


Poulain, Bazille et ses amis, 1932, n° 6, pp. 84, 212 - Guérif, A la recherche d'une esthétique protestante, 1943, p. 32 - Sarraute, Catalogue de l'œuvre de Frédéric Bazille, 1948, n° 8, pp. 15-16 [Thèse de l'Ecole du Louvre non publiée] - Sarraute, Cat. exp. Wildenstein, Paris, 9 juin 1950, p. 8 - Daulte,  Bazille et son temps, 1952, n° 8,  p. 169 [Thèse sous la direction de Gaston Poulain] - Marandel, Cat. exp. The Art Institute of Chicago, 1978, n° 11, repr. 45 - Daulte, Frédéric Bazille : Catalogue raisonné de l'œuvre peint, 1992, p. 23 (repr. coul.) et p. 156, n° 8 (repr.) [Réédition de 1952 avec photos en couleur] - Bajou, Frédéric Bazille, 1993, pp. 61-62 (repr.) - Schulman, Frédéric Bazille : Catalogue raisonné, n°  12, repr. p. 119 - Champa, Pitman, Cat. exp. High Museum, Atlanta, 1999, n° 15, repr. p. 50 - Hilaire, Jones, Perrin, Cat. exp. Montpellier, Paris, Washington, 2016-2017, n° 12, repr. p. 224 et p.101 [Les références sont du catalogue en français] - Schulman, Frédéric Bazille : Catalogue raisonné numérique, 2022, n° 12.

Bazille's still lives were all executed between 1863 and 1867, that is, in the early part of his artistic career. The Scoter and the Still Life with Heron are his only representations of birds. His animal still lives are, moreover, very few in number; they include, in addition to these two paintings, only the Two Herrings of 1864 and the Still Life with Fish of 1866.

We know about The Scoter as early as April 12, 1865, through a letter from Mrs Gaston Bazille, a letter in which she asks her son to bring the painting back to her: "Think of my white bird... Bring it to me. Its disappearance was very sensitive to me". This letter tends to prove that The Scoter was painted at Méric in the Fall of 1864 and that Bazille would have taken it back during his stay in Montpellier in April 1865.

The wild duck, dead, hangs by its beak. It stands out against a light wood background. A black fly "sits" to the left of the bird. The subject is doubly interesting, first for the simplicity of the treatment, and second for the harmony of the colors. Unlike Monet's Nature morte au faisan, for example, Bazille's The Scoter is stripped of everything that usually makes for a still life's appeal: everyday objects used in hunting, making or eating food. The scoter, alone, is the center of the painting but the eye is drawn to the only living presence: the fly.

The simplicity of the theme is strengthened by the choice of the decor: it is sketchy if not absent. The scoter stands out on a wooden panel; the bird is all gray and white, colors thus completing the natural wooden panel. Bazille did not play on contrasts but on color associations.

We do not share Poulain's opinion that The Scoter is an "ancient study of relative significance and vein" [Poulain, 1932, p. 84]. On the other hand, Sophie Monneret finds in this painting a "lively manner, close to that of Manet", a quality that we also recognize. But the comparison stops there.

The name "scoter" was questioned by ornithologists at the 2016-2017 exhibition. In note 1, p. 224 of the catalogue, the scoter is said to be a laughing gull instead. But the usual name has not been changed. This seems to follow the name given by Frédéric and Gaston Bazille when, on various occasions, they speak of "hunting scoters".

The Scoter was first exhibited in 1927 in Montpellier; it appears in the painting A Studio on the rue Visconti, to the left of the fireplace.