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Frédéric Bazille

The Digital Catalogue Raisonné

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

Young Male Nude Lying

Huile sur toile [Rentoilé en 1947]
147,7 x 139 cm - 58 x 34 3/4 in.
Montpellier, Musée Fabre, France - Inv. 2002.5.2
Dernière mise à jour : 2022-04-03 06:23:40
Référence : MSb-56


Famille de l’artiste, Montpellier - Marc Bazille, frère de l’artiste - Frédéric Bazille, neveu de l'artiste - Ses héritiers - Vente Paris-Drouot, 21 juin 2002, n° 13 - Musée Fabre, Montpellier, 2002.


Paris, galerie Wildenstein, 1950, n° 48 - Montpellier, musée Fabre, 1959 (Hors catalogue) - Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago, 1978, n° 50, repr. p. 104 - Montpellier, musée Fabre, 1984, Bazille dans les collections particulières, repr. p. 1 - Paris, musée Marmottan Monet, 2003-2004, cat. 20, repr. p. 70 - Tokyo, Ibaraki, Yamanashi, Osaka, Nagasaki, 2005-2006, n° 70 - Montpellier, Paris, Washington, 2016-2017, cat. 64, repr. p. 255 et p. 155 [Les références sont du catalogue en français].


Sarraute, Catalogue de l'œuvre de Frédéric Bazille, 1948, n° 44 [Thèse de l'Ecole du Louvre non publiée] - Daulte, Frédéric Bazille et son temps, 1952, n° 43, pp. 151, 183-184 (repr.) [Thèse sous la direction de Gaston Poulain] - Scharf, Art and Photography, 1968, p. 274 - Champa, Studies in Early Impressionism, 1973, pp. 11, 86, fig. 14 - Marandel, Catalogue exp. The Art Institute of Chicago, 1978, n° 50, repr. p. 104 - Dejean, Catalogue exp. Montpellier, musée Fabre, 1984, p. 2 - Daulte, Frédéric Bazille : Catalogue raisonné de l'œuvre peint, 1992, n° 48, pp. 145, 174 [Réédition de 1952 avec photos en couleur] - Michel, Bazille, 1992, n° 50, p. 242 - Bajou, Frédéric Bazille, 1993, p. 182 - Schulman, Frédéric Bazille : Catalogue raisonné, 1995, n° 56, repr. p. 203 -  Hilaire, Catalogue exp. Tokyo, Ibaraki, Yamanashi, Osaka, Nagasaki, 2005-2006, n° 70, pp. 179-180 - Schulman, Frédéric Bazille : Catalogue raisonné - Supplément 1, 2006, repr. p. 31 - Hilaire, Vingt ans d'acquisitions au musée Fabre, 2014, n° 172, pp. 105-106 - Hilaire, Jones, Perrin, Catalogue exp. Montpellier, Paris, Washington, 2016-2017, cat. 64, repr. p. 255 et p. 155 [Les références sont du catalogue en français]- Schulman, Frédéric Bazille : Catalogue raisonné numérique, 2022, n° 56.

After the Fisherman with a Net and the Summer Scene, the Young Male Nude Lying is Bazille's last attempt to paint a naked man in an outdoor landscape. In the 2016-2017 exhibition catalogue, Perrin refers to it as a "strange painting [that] results from the superposition of two unfinished compositions".

This painting depicts a young man lying flat on the grass, his left arm folded under his face. His long legs are crossed. At his feet are folded blue pants. Behind the meadow where he is lying, the outline of a tree, probably a pine tree, and a kind of wall that is in fact difficult to distinguish precisely. In front of the boy, the broad lines of a crinoline that poses the whole problem of this enigmatic painting.

Sarraute wonders if it was not taken from a photograph; Daulte affirms this by saying that it "was painted from a daguerreotype" [Daulte, 1992, p. 145]. But there is no evidence of this, in our opinion. According to Champa, the crinoline distinguishable under the young man would have been painted by Monet, as a study for his Femmes au jardin. Bazille would then have painted his own picture over it. Perrin correctly points out that Champa put forward his hypothesis in 1973 and that he "came up against the image revealed by the X-rays, which he was not familiar with". To summarize the various hypotheses, we can think, like Perrin, that "Bazille painted his teen ager from memory or from drawings made after a model at another time".

Whatever the case, the character gives an impression of awkwardness. "The face...does not match the body and the body is just a grub without bones or muscles. The contours are at the same time clear and veiled [Sarraute, 1948, n° 44, p. 103]. This judgment of Sarraute is without appeal: it is true that the face is thick and that it does not correspond to the adolescent forms of the body. Although the hypothesis has been advanced, the young man resting here, with his eyes closed, is nothing like the boy lying on his side in the Summer Scene. He seems younger, more adolescent with, as we have pointed out, this break between body and face. The boy in the Summer Scene is, on the other hand, more homogeneous, the body matching the face, the whole reminiscent of a slightly older character.

Xavier Dejean rightly writes that this study "testifies to a discordance, an inner break, and a research anxiety in these last two years when Bazille is suddenly traversed by multiple anxieties and interpretations" [Dejean, catalogue of Fabre Museum, Montpellier, Summer 1984].

In fact, this painting is in line with the Fisherman with a Net, not technically but psychologically; it is the sign of a personal evolution. Dejean is undoubtedly correct in locating this work at the crossroads of several paths.

The painting is divided in two. The lower part presents two women in a garden, one of them, seated on the ground is clad in a crinoline dress that spreads out around her. In 1973, Champa was to say that this was a sketch by Monet for his Femmes au jardin [1866]. But as the 2016-2017 exhibition catalogue explains, this assumption is contradicted by the X-rays, which argues that this part is indeed in Bazille's hand. In his letter of April 1867, Bazille would say in substance that he was making a painting with two women of natural size.

Bazille then takes over the upper part to paint this naked young man that we see today. Nevertheless, the painting remains an enigma in substance and form. Indeed, one is surprised by the contrast between the well-drawn body and the unskilled face that contrasts with the rest. This is reminiscent of The Pink Dress whose right arm and face have been retouched, raising the hanger of Bazille. Several hypothesis have been proposed concerning the model, including that of Sarraute who speaks of a photograph. However, there is no evidence to support it.

This painting undoubtedly raises a feeling of discomfort undoubtedly stemming from its enigmatic character.