Jean-Frederick Bazille (1841-1871)
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Frederick Bazille was one of the founding members of the Impressionist group. It is likely that if he had not tragically died during the Franco Prussian war that he would have gone on to be an Impressionist painter as successful as either Monet or Renoir.
He was born to a family of rich land owners and wine growers in Montpelier in the South and France and left to go to Paris to study Medicine. Whilst studying, he enrolled in the studio of Charles Gleyre where he took part time classes. Gleyre was a Swiss painter who had taught Whistler and other members of the Impressionist group.
In 1864 he failed his medical exams and decided to devote himself to painting and enrolled in Gleyre’s studio full time. He had an enormous amount of respect for his teacher and was quoted as saying of him;
‘Thanks to Gleyre’s teaching, I shall at least be able to say that I have not copied anybody.’
It was in Gleyre’s studio, that he was to form friendships that were to change the rest of his short life. It was there he met, Monet, Renoir and Sisley. It is said that they sneaked out of their painting classes to peer through the studio of the by then elderly painter Eugene Delacroix and watch him painting. Bazille began going to the Forest of Fontainebleau with Renoir and Monet to practice their ‘plein air’ technique. However, Bazille did not have much interest in painting landscapes, his passion was figures. The well known painting of his, which he produced in 1867 entitled ‘Family on the Terrace,’ recorded a family reunion in Montpelier and exemplified perfectly his style and the way in which he handled the light. It was in the painting of these kinds of portraits that he excelled.
From 1865 to 1886 he shared a studio with Monet and took on most of the responsibly for the financial burden of the rent. Later on he shared a studio with Renoir and also helped him out financially. He remained a loyal and faithful friend to Monet and helped him out with his persistent financial problems, he loaned him money, made outright gifts, paid for meals and bought canvases from him. In 1868 when Monet was chronically depressed with money worries, he turned to his friend Frederick Bazille for help. Bazille obliged by purchasing Monet’s canvas of ‘Woman in the Garden’ for the enormous sum of 2500 Francs. He paid Monet in monthly installments. As he was still living on an allowance from his father at the time, it is said that he could not really afford the princely sum he paid Monet, but his sentiments of friendship for Monet outweighed his concerns for himself.
In 1870 he moved to a studio in the Batignolles region of Paris. It was in this district that he met up with all his friends from the Impressionist circle as they gathered in the Cafe Guerbois in the Grande Rue des Batignolles. It was here that they met, ate, drank and had loud disagreements and discussions about their art.
It was in his studio in Batignolles that he produced his famous painting in 1870, which now hangs in the Musee d’Orsay entitled, ‘Studio, Rue de la Condamine,’ which shows his studio with a number of his famous friends in it, such as Monet, Renoir, Manet and Zola. This painting is a testament to the beginnings of Impressionism. In fact at one time the founders of Impressionism where known as the School of Batignolles as a tribute to the area in Paris where they met and painted.
The Franco Prussian war was to change everything. His friends Sisley, Monet and Pissaro escaped to England. Despite the pleas of his friends not to join up, Bazille enlisted to fight in the war. Tragically he died at the young age of twenty nine.
As one of the founding members of Impressionism, paintings by Bazille are extremely valuable. His death at such a young age, of course means that the number of paintings he produced was limited and if a forgotten Bazille were found, it would certainly be worth a great deal of money.If you believe you have a work of art by Frederick Bazille, contact Art Experts.