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Frédéric Bazille

The Digital Catalogue Raisonné

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

View of the Village

Huile sur toile
137,5 x 85,5 cm - 54 3/4 x 33 3/4 in.
en bas à droite : F. Bazille Juillet 1868
Montpellier, Musée Fabre, France - Inv. 898.5.1
Dernière mise à jour : 2022-03-29 07:01:01
Référence : MSb-46


Famille de l'artiste, Montpellier - Don de Mme Gaston Bazille, mère de l'artiste, au musée Fabre, 1868.


Paris, Palais de l'Industrie, 1869, Salon de 1869, n° 149 - Paris, Grand Palais, 1900, Centennale de l'art français, n° 22 - Paris, Grand Palais, 1910, Rétrospective Bazille, n° 14 - Montpellier, Exposition internationale, 1927, Rétrospective Bazille, n° 17 - Paris, Association des étudiants protestants, 1935, n° 18 - Paris, musée de l'Orangerie, 1939, n° 5 - Berne, Kunsthaus, 1939, n° 4 - Montpellier, musée Fabre, 1941, n° 25 - Bruxelles, musée des Beaux-Arts, 1947-1948, n° 104, repr. pl. 52 - Paris, galerie Wildenstein, 1950, n° 41 - Montpellier, musée Fabre, 1959, n° 29 - Montpellier, musée Fabre, 1970-1971, Hommage à Frédéric Bazille [s.n.] - Bordeaux, galerie des Beaux-Arts, 1974, Naissance de l'impressionnisme, n° 86, repr. p. 123 - Paris, Grand Palais, 1974, Centenaire de l'impressionnisme, n° 1, p. 37 -  Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago, 1978, n° 30, repr. p. 74 - Montpellier, musée Fabre, 1985, n° 38 (repr.) - Montpellier, New York, 1992-1993, n° 20, repr. p. 110 - Paris, New York, 1994-1995, Les Origines de l'Impressionnisme : 1859-1874, n° 9, repr. pl. 182 - Atlanta, High Museum, 1999, n° 20, repr. p. 88 - Montpellier, musée Fabre, 2001, Chefs d'oeuvre du musée Fabre et du musée d'Orsay [s.n.] - Paris, musée Marmottan Monet, 2003-2004, cat. 18, repr. p.61 - Madrid, Bilbao, 2005, De Rafael a Degas, n° 49 - Lausanne, Fondation de l'Hermitage, 2006, n° 88 - Montpellier, Paris, Washington, 2016-2017, cat. 45, repr. p. 242 et pp. 102, 117 (Détails) et p. 134 [Les références sont du catalogue en français].


Catalogue de l'exposition centennale, Paris, 1900, n° 22, repr. p. 43 - Joubin, Catalogue des peintures et sculptures des galeries du musée Fabre, Montpellier, 1926, n° 361, p. 114 - Poulain, L'Eclair  du Midi, 1926, p. 2 - Poulain, La Renaissance de l'art, 1927, pp. 168, 172-173 - Poulain, Bazille et ses amis, 1932, n° 29, pp. 124-127, 146-148, 216-217 - Poulain, L'Art et les artistes, 1934, p. 318 - Poulain, Cat. exp. musée Fabre, Montpellier, 1941, n° 25 - Sarraute, Catalogue de l'œuvre de Frédéric Bazille, 1948, n° 29, pp. 67-71 [Thèse de l'Ecole du Louvre non publiée] - Sarraute, Cat. exp. galerie Wildenstein,  1950, n° 41 - Sarraute, Arts, 1950, p. 8 - Daulte, Bazille et son temps, 1952, n° 36, pp. 180-181 [Thèse sous la direction de Gaston Poulain] - Claparède, Catalogue du musée Fabre, 1965, t. IV, pp. 26-29 [Non publié, dactylographié] - Champa, Studies in Early Impressionism, 1973, pp. 88-89 - Marandel, Cat. exp. The Art Institute of Chicago, 1978, n° 30, p. 74 - Daulte, Frédéric Bazille : Catalogue raisonné de l'œuvre peint, 1992, n° 39, pp. 75, 170 [Réédition de 1952 avec photos en couleur] - Jourdan, Catalogue exp. Montpellier, New York, 1992-1993, n° 20, pp. 111-112 - Bajou, Frédéric Bazille, 1993, pp. 136, 169-172 - Tinterow, Cat. exp. Paris, New York, 1994-1995, n° 9, p. 333 - Schulman, Frédéric Bazille : Catalogue raisonné, 1995, n° 46, repr. p. 183 - Champa, Pitman, Cat. exp. Atlanta, High Museum, 1999, n° 20, repr. p. 88,  pp. 88-89 - Hilaire, Cat. exp. Madrid, Bilbao, 2005, n° 49, pp. 150, 209 - Hilaire, Catalogue exp. Lausanne, Kunsthaus, 2006, n° 88, p. 227 - Hilaire, Guide du musée Fabre, 2006, n° 175, p. 190 - Waller, The Art Bulletin, juin 2007, pp. 258-259 - Hilaire, Jones, Perrin, Cat. exp. Montpellier, Paris, Washington,  2016-2017, cat. 45, repr. p. 242 et pp. 102, 117 (Détails) et p. 134 [Les références sont du catalogue en français] - Schulman, Frédéric Bazille : Catalogue raisonné numérique, 2022, n° 46.

With the View of the Village, Bazille's masterwork, "a new era opened for French painting", wrote Gaston Poulain [Poulain, 1932, p. 125]. In the wake of The Pink Dress and The Family Gathering, the View of the Village confirms all of Bazille's interest in plein air painting, in inserting figures into a landscape and in the South, Languedoc.

Once again, it was at Méric estate on the heights of Montpellier that Bazille found the subject of his painting. Under a small pine tree, a young girl sits; she looks out at us while below, behind the Bel-Air wood, the waters of the Lez slowly flow, which is dominated by the village of Castelnau.

In a letter to his father in late March 1868, Bazille wrote: "I absolutely must find a pretty model of a clothed woman [...] I can't wait to be at work at Méric; I intend to have the little girl from Saint-Sauveur pose, but I would also like to have a little model of a young girl with a face and pretty hands". This is indeed what he paints here in an applied manner.

According to the family tradition, Bazille had as a model the daughter of the Italian tenant farmer of Méric. Her white dress with fine and discreet stripes clears her neck; it is elegant and makes one think of a festive or Sunday garment; also elegant is her wide belt, which is not, either, that of every day. Finally, the ribbon around her head, like the stripes of her dress and her belt, is brick-colored; and these reminders of tone translate a concern for harmony that must undoubtedly be attributed to the artist organizing his painting rather than to his model. Between the young girl and the Lez, a small wood, that of Bel-Air, refreshes with its greenery a parched countryside. Then comes the Lez, a trickle of water rather than a river, which flows lazily, and whose bed shows, scattered islands of ochre sand and burnt grass. Finally, in the last plan, the village of Castelnau-le-Lez sleeping under a blazing sun. The houses, geometrically drawn, are further away than in The Pink Dress. While in the latter painting the young girl turns and leads our eyes towards the village, here, on the contrary, she catches and holds our gaze, thus leaving the houses only a secondary place.

The painting has received the most diverse names: Jeune Fille assise au pied d'un arbre, Jeune Fille assise dans un paysage, Terrasse de Bel-Air, Vue du village de Castelnau. But, it was presented at the 1869 Salon under the name given by Bazille: View of the Village.

From this young girl emanates, as Mullins says, "a certain tenderness... a smug confidence" [Mullins, April 1971, pp. 30-35] that allows Bazille to paint his subject from the front, which is not always the case. In Studies for a Grape Harvest, in his two paintings done at Chailly and in the Landscape on the Banks of the Lez, Bazille painted the landscape for its own sake. Here, on the contrary, the aim is to make sensitive the link that unites it to the character. Although still essential to the overall atmosphere, it is now only an element of the painting.

Bazille did not hesitate, on several occasions, to give a natural framing to his paintings. In The Family Gathering and in the Oleanders, he placed the subject under a tree. Here, the operation is repeated, in much the same way. The pine tree provides both a vertical and horizontal boundary to the painting.

The graphic design, however, is not always as happy as in other works. Indeed, Bazille seems to have difficulty rendering certain shapes such as the face and hands, not to mention the long scarf that girdles the young girl. This scarf is lost in its own folds and its movement is not easily discernible. Nothing to do here with Cézanne who admirably rendered the shapes and folds of fabrics in his still lives.

The girl's crimson face, especially her right cheek, stands out, without transition, from the green mass of trees. Some of them are either sketched out, like the one on the left, or depicted in a comprehensive way, like the one to the right of the pine tree. In the background, the hills are more sketched than really drawn. In fact the emphasis is on color; it is color that suggests the shapes. Not those of the character, but those of the trees which exist only by their green or ochre masses, and those of the houses reverberating the sun of the South. This time," says Poulain, "the extraordinary luminosity is rendered in all its magnificence, the rawness of the colors bursts forth as revealed by the unique day. This day, the nobility of the site, the very type of the young girl seated in the foreground, grave and a little stiff under her festive clothes, all this is the synthesis of Languedoc" [Poulain, June 1934, p. 318].

Visiting the Fabre Museum, Paul Valéry, too, would be struck by the originality of the painting and would say that "this countryside resembles no other" [Poulain, Itinéraires, Nov. 1942]. The relationship between shadow and light is essential here; but we are at the antipodes of impressionism, hence Max Allier's remark: "Nowhere do we perceive in his manner an aspiration to disintegrate the forms and make them dance in the imprecise scintillation of light" [Allier, Oct. 1959]. More frank, more direct light, even more Languedoc than in The Pink Dress where the colors are more muted.

In the distance, the village of Castelnau and the surrounding hills are already reminiscent of Cézanne and his prefiguration of Cubism. This is particularly noticeable in the houses that are intertwined, white and ochre, as if to hide from each other and give only a global vision. Nothing of the sort in The Pink Dress or any of Bazille's other works, for simplification of form is not the aim here.

Many works by contemporary painters can be compared to the View of the Village. For example, we can compare it to Monet's Argenteuil where we see a young girl sitting on the banks of the Seine. As for the striped dress, it can be found, for example, in Sisley et sa femme and En été by Renoir as well as in Le Port de Lorient where Berthe Morisot depicted her sister Edma on a small wall facing the port.

Bazille executed several preparatory drawings for the View of the Village, the most significant of which is the Study for the View of the Village. We do not know exactly how he conceived his painting through preparatory drawings whose progression is unknown. We can at best see the differences through the various positions of the young girl, in the distance the drawing of the village more or less completed and finally by the pine tree whose first draft is finally only a pencil line. Bazille made an etching of this painting which, according to Hilaire, "was printed post mortem in about fifty copies". Specifying that this is "Bazille's only known foray into printmaking" [p. 137] [See Vue de village also known as the Arlésienne, the only etching we know of by Bazille].

Bazille painted the View of the Village in the Summer of 1868, no doubt with the idea of exhibiting it at the 1869 Salon. In February 1869, that is, only a few weeks before sending it there, he gave news of his painting to his parents: "The painting of the little Italian girl, which you seemed to think was bad, has been a great success with a mass of painters, to whom I have recently shown it". In fact, the View of the Village would be accepted, while the Fisherman with a Net, presented at the same time, would be refused.

Criticism was no more abundant than for The Family Gathering, perhaps because, as Bazille wrote to his father on May 2, 1869, his painting was "as poorly placed as it could be".

Berthe Morisot noticed it, however, and in a letter to her sister praised it: "The great Bazille has done something that I think is very good; it is a  young girl in a very light dress, in the shade of a tree behind which a village can be seen. There is a lot of light and sun. He seeks what we have so often sought: to put a figure in the open air; this time, he seems to me to have succeeded. Léon Gautier, in the Salon of 1869, showed only incomprehension: "What strange idea seized the brain of M. J. Bazille (sic), when he painted his View of the Village, and why this woman dressed in white, which he placed in a foreground? Mystery, mystery. The landscape itself is singular...to say nothing more" [Gautier, June 30, 1869, pp. 1-2]. As for the criticism of the Journal de Montpellier of June 12, 1869, it is finally laudatory: "One hesitates at first between the most opposite qualifications of eccentric and naive. In the end, one must recognize absolutely true the boldness of the composition and color".

The View of the Village was sketched by Gill in La Parodie of June 4, 1869.

Related Works

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La Robe rose - Huile sur toile - 147 x 110 cm - Musée d'Orsay (MSb-10)
Oeuvre en rapport
Vue de village - Eau-forte sur papier - 27,8 x 19,1 cm - Musée Fabre (MSb-121)
Oeuvre en rapport
Etude pour la Vue de village - Dessin au crayon - Musée d'Orsay (MSb-262)
Oeuvre en rapport
Etude pour la Vue de village - Dessin au crayon - Musée d'Orsay (MSb-263)
Oeuvre en rapport
Etude pour la Vue de village - Fusain - Musée d'Orsay (MSb-265)