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Frédéric Bazille

The Digital Catalogue Raisonné

by Michel Schulman
© National Gallery of Art, Washington

Young Woman with Peonies

Huile sur toile
60 x 75 cm - 23 5/8 x 29 1/2 in.
Signé et daté en haut à droite : F. Bazille, 1870
Washington, National Gallery of Art, Etats-Unis - Inv.1983.1.6
Dernière mise à jour : 2022-03-25 09:07:57
Référence : MSb-61


Don de l’artiste à Edmond Maître - Gaston Maître, Gironde - Cédé par Gaston Maître à Marc Bazille, frère de l’artiste, en 1913 - Frédéric Bazille, neveu de l’artiste - Paul Mellon, 1963 [Wildenstein Gallery, New York] - National Gallery of Art, Washington (Collection of Mr. et Mrs. Paul Mellon).


Montpellier, Exposition internationale, 1927, Rétrospective Bazille, n° 24 - Paris, Association des étudiants protestants, 1935, n° 12, repr. pl. 12  - Paris, galerie des Beaux-Arts, 1937, Naissance de l’impressionnisme, n° 57 - Montpellier, musée Fabre, 1941, n° 33 - Paris, galerie Wildenstein, 1950, n° 55 - Montpellier, musée Fabre, 1959, n° 37 - Washington, National Gallery of Art, 17 mars-1er mai 1966, French Paintings from the Collections of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon and Mrs. Mellon Bruce, n° 113, repr. p. 127 - Minneapolis, Londres, 2015-2016, Delacroix and the Rise of Modern Art, n° 67, repr. p. 226 - Montpellier, Paris, Washington, 2016-2017, cat. 61, repr. p. 253 et p. 177 [Les références sont du catalogue en français] - Paris, musée d'Orsay, 2019, n° 129, repr. p. 181.


Poulain, Bazille et ses amis 1932, n° 38, pp. 168, 176, 218 - Sarraute, Catalogue de l'œuvre de Frédéric Bazille, 1948, n° 40, pp. 84, 98, 114 - Claparède, Languedoc méditérranéen et Roussillon d'hier et d'aujourd'hui, 1947, p. 237 - Wildenstein, Arts,  9 juin 1950, n° 266 - Daulte, Bazille et son temps, 1952, n° 52, pp. 78, 128-129, 188 (repr.) [Thèse sous la direction de Gaston Poulain] - Daulte, Connaissance des Arts, déc. 1970, n° 266, p. 88, repr. pp. 88-89 - Paris, Grand Palais, 1979, L’art en France sous le Second Empire, n° VI-4 - Gaigneron, Connaissance des Arts,  juin 1983, p. 19 (repr.) - National Gallery of Art Report, Washington, 1983, p. 31 - Daulte, Frédéric Bazille : Catalogue raisonné de l'œuvre peint, 1992, pp. 78, 128 et pp. 180-181, n° 60 (repr.) (repr. coul. p. 77) [Réédition de 1952 avc photos én couleur] - Michel, Bazille, 1992, p. 253 - Cat. exp. Montpellier, New York, 1992-1993, fig. 69, repr. p.123 - Bajou, Frédéric Bazille, 1993, p. 167 (repr.) - Schulman, Frédéric Bazille : Catalogue raisonné, 1995, n° 61, repr. p. 215 - Pitman, 1998, Bazille : Purity, Pose and Painting in the 1860s, pp. 179-183 - Noon, Riopelle, Cat. exp. Minneapolis, Londres, 2015-2016, Delacroix and the Rise of Modern Art, n° 67, repr. p. 226 - Montpellier, Paris, Washington, 2016-2017, cat. 61, repr. Hilaire, Jones, Perrin, Cat. exp. Montpellier, Paris, Washington, 2016-2017, cat. 61, repr. p. 253 et p. 177 [Les références sont du catalogue en français] - Murrell, Cat. exp. New York, 2018-2019, fig. 77, repr. p. 75 et fig. 79, repr. p. 77 (Détail) - Cat. exp. musée d'Orsay, Paris, 2019, n° 129, repr. p. 181 - Schulman, Frédéric Bazille : Catalogue raisonné numérique, 2022, n° 61.

Similar in size to the other one, this second version of the Young Woman with Peonies [Previously Négresse aux pivoines] is somewhat enigmatic. This is the first time, in fact, that Bazille conceived and produced two works so close in subject and treatment, the three paintings at Aigues-Mortes being very dissimilar in spirit, layout, and even technique.

Here, the character is the same as in the first version of the Young Woman with Peonies and is also found in La Toilette. "The subject seems to have particularly interested Bazille," notes Rewald [Frédéric Bazille. Exhibition: L'art en France sous le Second Empire, Paris, Grand-Palais, 1979]. The model is no longer arranging flowers in a vase but, this time, in a large wicker basket placed in front of him and occupying the entire width of the painting in the foreground. The attitude of the woman here is quite different from that in the other painting. She is looking straight at us, holding a bouquet of peonies in her right hand, as if she wanted to offer it to us, or ask our advice, or take us as witnesses. Here too, the woman is represented in bust form with the same dress and the same red madras scarf tied behind her head. However, the flowers are more varied: cyclamen, lilacs, daffodils, tulips, roses, pansies and forget-me-nots are gathered here. It is a real parterre that the artist offers us: the red and white flowers, which the yellows and pinks rub shoulders with, are spread out on dark green leaves.

The tone of this painting is quite different from the other one. The background is less dark and the lighting more diffuse. The contrasts are also less sharp. The dress, for example, is no longer as white; it even turns pale pink. As for the face, it is lit by a softer light, which makes it more distinct, more homogeneous and also more present. The light, moreover, does not come from the right as in the first version, but from the front. The relationship between the two versions is not very clear", Rewald adds, "they seem to have been painted simultaneously, and if the version presented here [the one in the Fabre Museum] is perhaps an allusion to Courbet, the one in the Mellon collection (Washington), with its flowers occupying the entire lower third of the canvas, is a tribute to Delacroix, to whom Bazille had an almost religious devotion". [Frédéric Bazille. Exhibition: L'art en France sous le Second Empire, Paris, Grand-Palais, 1979]. On the other hand, from one painting to the other, the technique and the graphics do not vary and, as we have already pointed out, Bazille succeeds perfectly in drawing his characters. As for the flowers, they are, as usual with Bazille, a delight for the eyes.

Should we prefer this version? Courthion admits that he "prefers the first one...although the two paintings are of equal value" [Courthion, 1964, p. 27]. The bouquet of flowers is undoubtedly more sumptuous here, but the diffuse lighting takes away from this second work some of the mystery of the first. Here, the light dissolves the shadows and the woman is at least as important as the flowers, which was not the case in the first. It was probably the search for another balance in the layout and volumes that prompted Bazille to paint the Young Woman with Peonies a second time.

Radiography, National Gallery of Art, Washington
Radiography, National Gallery of Art, Washington
There is no hint of these projects in Bazille's correspondence, as there is for many others. At most, they are to be discerned through what Bazille calls "Suzanne's flowers" in his correspondence. The letters to his mother of January 17 and April 28, 1870 are the only links we can establish, a tenuous link to say the least!

Of course, we will make the connection between these paintings by Bazille with L'Atelier aux Batignolles by Fantin-Latour as well as with La Fille aux fleurs by Otto Scholderer [Kunsthalle, Bremen].

Which painting was done first? As Jones points out in the 2016-2017 exhibition catalogue [P. 181], there is debate about this, knowing that we will probably never have the answer. As for the connection between them, we could discuss it for ever.