The Artist Frederic Bazille

Born in 1841, the artist Frederic Bazille was born in Montpellier, a city in southern France. He is best known for his Impressionist works painted en plein air—in the open air, as the Impressionists called this style. Some of his most famous paintings include Reunion de Famille (1867) and L’Atelier de la Rue Condamine (1870).

Bazille hailed from a wealthy family; his father was a landowner and produced wine in the Montpellier region. Bazille became interested in painting at a young age; however, his family did not approve of art as a career. They agreed to let him study art if he also studied to be a physician. He began his medical studies in 1859. In 1862, he moved to Paris to continue studying medicine along with art. After he failed his medical exams in 1864, he devoted himself completely to painting.

Initially, Bazille was inspired by the paintings of Eugene Delacroix. Once in Paris, however, he came under the spell of the Impressionist group of painters and began to paint landscapes en plein air. He took classes at the studio of Charles Gleyre where he met and befriended such artists as Claude Monet and Alfred Sisley. Eventually, he and Monet would share a studio. Bazille also shared a studio with Auguste Renoir. The Impressionists valued Bazille’s talent and he, in turn, helped them with supplies or other support. Bazille spoke highly of the training at Gleyre’s studio and believed it taught him to refrain from copying and to paint with originality.

Bazille admired the en plein air landscape, but was compelled to place figures in his works. For this reason, he is best known for his peopled landscapes. Another of his most famous works is The Pink Dress (1864), which portrays a woman seated before a view of a city. The woman in this painting is Bazille’s cousin. Other exceptional works by the artist include View of the Village (1868), La Toilette (1870), Portrait of Renoir (1867), and his own Self-Portrait (1865-1866). His works are held at such renowned museums as the Musee d’Orsay, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Art Institute of Chicago.

In 1870, Bazille joined a Zouave unit of the French Army after the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War. He was killed leading a charge toward the end of that same year. He died on a battlefield at the age of twenty-eight. Although Bazille died while still a young man, he left behind a substantial legacy of art. Revered in his circle of Impressionist friends, Bazille was honored for his heroism, but also admired for his artistic style.