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Frédéric Bazille

The Digital Catalogue Raisonné

by Michel Schulman
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Woman Ironing

Huile sur toile
99 x 81,5 cm - 38 15/16 x 32 1/16 in.
Signé et daté en bas à droite : F. Bazille 1866
Collection particulière
Dernière mise à jour : 2022-04-21 13:05:43
Référence : MSb-69


Jacques Delassus, Nîmes - Par descendance aux propriétaires actuels - Collection particulière - Vente Paris-Drouot, 18 décembre 2012, n° 103.


As far as we know, never exhibited


Schulman, Frédéric Bazille : Catalogue raisonné - Supplément 1, 2006, pp. 10-14, repr. p. 10 et détail p. 12 - Schulman, Frédéric Bazille : Catalogue raisonné numérique, 2022, n° 69.

La Repasseuse, François Bonvin, 1858, Philadelphia Museum of Arts
La Repasseuse, François Bonvin, 1858, Philadelphia Museum of Arts
La Repasseuse à contre-jour, Edgar Degas, 1886, National Gallery, Washington
La Repasseuse à contre-jour, Edgar Degas, 1886, National Gallery, Washington
This Woman Ironing is a major discovery in Bazille's work. The theme often interested nineteenth-century painters, and he was not the first one to interpret it. In 1858, François Bonvin brought this subject to life in a painting now owned by the Philadelphia Museum of Arts, and his painting takes us into the artist's intimacy. Twenty years later, Degas would execute several versions, the most famous of which is now in the collections of the Orsay Museum, but of these, the closest to Bazille's painting is La Repasseuse à contre jour in the National Gallery of Art in Washington. Between Bonvin's and Degas's, Bazille's Woman Ironing bears witness to the evolution of the genre, between realism and impressionism.

In 1866, Bazille executed works with diverse subjects: the Still Life with Fish that he presented at the 1866 Salon, the Little Italian Street Singer, Potted Flowers and The Terrace at Méric. But what preoccupies him above all is to be accepted at the Salon. To that end, he prepared a large painting, Young Woman Playing the Piano, which had long been missing - which would be refused - but which would be found under Ruth and Booz of the Fabre Museum thanks to X-rays made for the 2016-2017 exhibition. And in a letter to his mother, he wrote at the end of January, "I have been working enormously for the last month, I may say, from morning till night".

But Bazille was not only overloaded with work by the approach of the Salon, for the setting of his life changed twice: he left the studio on the rue de Furstenberg that he shared with Monet to move to the rue Godot-de-Mauroy, then moved again to the studio on the rue Visconti. It is therefore not surprising that he left late for his Summer stay at Méric, where he was to paint the Woman Ironing.

He arrived there in mid-August, and in a letter of the 7th to his mother, he explained that he planned to go to Aigues-Mortes but would postpone this trip until October if the weather was too hot. In that case, he wrote, "I will be able to resume my view of Méric with a gardener that I had given up  last year. It is certainly the painting in the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston that he wants to talk about; and it is also then that he paints the Woman Ironing, in which we find all the characters of a painting done at Méric.

The location offered itself to this theme. The family home at Méric unfortunately underwent multiple transformations when it was acquired by the city of Montpellier and the linen room then disappeared, but we have collected testimonies that have confirmed its past existence. Bazille made long stays at Méric every Summer; the scene he offers us here is therefore familiar, as are the relationships he had with all the servants of the house. So of the gardener watering, the subject of the painting The Little Gardener in 1866-1867. So too of the tenant farmer's daughter, who posed in 1868 in the View of the Village. At Méric, Bazille thus lacks neither subjects nor characters to animate them. And one cannot fail to see a certain similarity between the ironer and the young girl in the View of the Village. Indeed, if you juxtapose their faces, the resemblance is uncanny, and this is also true of their hands, which can be seen in the Summer Scene and more in The Fortune Teller.

The qualities of a good painter are often recognized by the way he renders draperies. Here, as with his Still Life with Fish, Bazille applies himself to it and it is executed with accuracy and skill. This is especially true of the sheets falling from the ironing board and also of the linen hanging from the linen closet line. They are reminiscent of the sheets on Monet's bed in The Improvised Field Hospital. In the Woman Ironing which is an interior scene, the tones are naturally restrained, as they are for The Artist Studio on the rue Furstenberg, A Studio on the rue Visconti and The Studio on the rue La Condamine. For this reason, it seems to us to reflect a particular experience of Bazille as he sought his own way between realism and impressionism.

Several scientific studies and analysis were made on the Woman Ironing by the Cabinet Gilles Perrault in May 2004, which leave no doubt about its date and authenticity. It confirms that the pigments are for sure of 19th century, but also that the signature was affixed to the painting as soon as it was completed.

UV of the signature
UV of the signature
U.V. examination reveals a few minor points of recent (less than fifty years old) restorations, but these restorations do not affect or alter the signature in any way.

X-rays reveals pentimenti that suggest that the painting was altered by the artist himself. Observation shows that Bazille lightened his composition by removing, for example, curtains and flasks on a shelf at the top and left of the painting.

Systematic analysis of all the colors observed in three samples and swatches was then performed. The results identified the following pigments: lead white (preparation layer on the canvas), pigments containing barium zinc, vermilion red, copper green, and cobalt blue. As the Cabinet Perrault's analysis states, "The pigments date from the beginning of the 19th century. They do not present any anachronism with the date of 1866".

These results were compared with those of similar analysis performed on other paintings by Bazille. They provide evidence that there are many analogies between them and the Woman Ironing: the pigments are identical and the mixtures similar. In the Woman Ironing, these are indeed the proven elements of Bazille's palette.