Sunday, February 9, 2014

Bazille, Jean-Frederic

Reunion de famille (Family Reunion)
oil on canvas
152 x 230 cm
Musee d'Orsay, Paris, France

Jean Frederic Bazille (1841-1870) was a French painter who as friend, benefactor, and colleague of the Impressionists, played an important role during the movement’s formative years. Many of Bazille's major works are examples of figure painting in which Bazille placed the subject figure within a landscape painted en plein air.

He was born in Montpellier, France, into a wealthy Protestant family. He became interested in painting after seeing some works of Eugene Delacroix. His family agreed to let him study painting, but only if he also studied medicine. He began studying medicine in 1859, and moved to Paris in 1862 to continue his studies. There he met Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Alfred Sisley, was drawn to Impressionist painting. After failing his medical exam in 1864, he began painting full-time. He was just twenty-three years old when he painted several of his best known works. His close friends included Claude Monet, Alfred Sisley, and Edouard Manet. Bazille was generous with his wealth, and helped support his less fortunate associates by giving them space in his studio and materials to use. As a painter he combined a certain naivete with a delicate feeling for nature and an exquisite sense of color. His landscape figures are strangely immobile and have a sculptural, hard-edge quality.

Bazille joined a Zouave regiment in August 1870, a month after the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War. On November 28 of that year he was with his unit at the Battle of Beaune-la-Rolande when, his officer having been injured, he took command and led an assault on the German position. He was hit twice in the failed attack and died on the battlefield at the age of twenty eight. His father travelled to the battlefield a few days later to take his body back for burial at Montpellier over a week later. Bazille, who seemed destined to occupy a prominent place among the Impressionists, was killed in the Franco-German War. His best known painting is Family Reunion.