Lot 17
  • 17

Jean-Frédéric Bazille

4,000,000 - 6,000,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Jean-Frédéric Bazille
  • Pots de fleurs
  • Signed and dated F. Bazille 66 (lower left)
  • Oil on canvas
  • 39 1/2 by 31 3/4 in.
  • 100.3 by 80.6 cm


Commandant and Mme Hippolyte Lejosne, Paris (acquired from the artist circa 1868)
The Lejosne Family, Pau (by descent from the above and until at least circa 1952)
Dr. F. Shöni, Zürich (acquired from the above)
Mr. and Mrs. John Hay Whitney (acquired from the above on October 27, 1960)


Paris, Palais de l’Industrie, Salon de 1868, 1868, no. 147
(titled Étude de fleurs)
Paris, Galerie Wildenstein, Bazille, 1950, no. 21 (titled Etude de fleurs)
Paris, Musée Jacquemart-André, Le Second Empire, 1957, no. 6 (titled Fleurs)
London, The Tate Gallery, The John Hay Whitney Collection, 1960-61, no. 2
Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art, The John Hay Whitney Collection, 1983, no. 1
Paris, Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Origins of Impressionism, 1994-95, no. 4 (titled Etude de fleurs)
Washington, D.C., The Phillips Collection, Impressionist Still Life, 2001-02, no. 1


J. Ixe, “Les artistes Montpelliérains au Salon de 1868:  Lettres au Directeur du Journal de Montpellier,” Journal de Montpellier, Montpellier, May 23, 1868
Gaston Poulain, Bazille et ses amis, Paris, 1932, no. 13, catalogued p. 213
Gabrielle Sarraute, Catalogue de l’oeuvre de Frédéric Bazille (unpublished paper), Ecole du Louvre, Paris, 1948, no. 19,  p. 42
Daniel Wildenstein, “Le peintre de natures mortes,” Arts, Paris, June 9, 1950
François Daulte, Frédéric Bazille et son temps, Geneva, 1952, no. 18, catalogued p. 173
H.L.F., “London’s public glimpse at the private J.H. Whitney Collection,” Art News, New York, January 1961, illustrated
John Rewald, The History of Impressionism, New York, 1973, illustrated p. 113
John Rewald,  The History of Impressionism, New York, 1976, illustrated pl. 75
François Daulte, "Une grande amitié: Edmond Maitre et Frédéric Bazille," L'Oeil, Paris, April 1978, illustrated p. 38
Judith Bumpus, Impressionist Gardens, Oxford, 1990, no. 33
François Daulte, Frédéric Bazille et les debuts de l'Impressionnisme, catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint, Paris, 1992, no. 20, illustrated p. 161
Valérie Bajou, Frédéric Bazille, Aix-en-Provence, 1993, illustrated p. 119
Michel Schulman, Frédéric Bazille, 1841-1870, Catalogue raisonné, Paris, 1995, no. 24, illustrated p. 141

Catalogue Note

Frederic Bazille’s Etude de Fleurs of 1866 is among the most remarkable and beautiful still-life paintings in the history of the Impressionist movement.  Painted in the greenhouse of his family’s property in Méric near Montpellier, the artist produced a painting that is more than a conventional still-life or nature morte.  Instead of a formally arranged assemblage of objects, game, food, or cut flowers, the twenty-five-year-old artist focused on live flowers in terracotta pots on the floor of the greenhouse.  While there is an evident debt to Gustave Courbet’s Realism and his interpretations of flower subjects (see fig. 1), Bazille’s Etude de Fleurs is distinguished as a composition that breaks with the past.  It moves beyond traditional ideas about symmetry, frontality, balance, and subject matter.  The disposition of the flower pots seems entirely random and unplanned.  It is free of the notions of order and compositional structure that were taught in art schools such as the Ecole des Beaux-Arts.  Bazille, as well as Monet, Renoir, and Sisley, were fortunate to have been able to study painting in the studio of the academician Charles Gleyre.  “Gleyre,” Rewald notes, “was a modest man, disliking to lecture, and all in all rather indulgent; he seldom took up a brush and corrected a student’s work.  Renoir afterwards stated that Gleyre had been ‘of no help to his pupils,’ but added that he had the merit ‘of leaving them pretty much to their own devices.’ Gleyre did not even have preferences in subject matter and let his students paint what they wanted” (John Rewald, The History of Impressionism, New York, 1961, pp. 72-74).

If there were works that may have directly inspired Bazille’s Etude de Fleurs, they were most likely flower paintings done by his friends Monet (see fig. 2) and Renoir (see fig. 3).  Flowering plants in terracotta pots play a role in each, and, as Gary Tinterow points out in the catalogue for The Origins of Impressionism, “[In the summer of 1864] Monet wrote a long letter encouraging Bazille to do a flower piece: ‘Do one, then, because it is, I think, an excellent subject to paint.’”

“By the time Bazille began to paint [Etude de Fleurs] in 1866,” Tinterow continues, “he had the opportunity to study Monet’s Fleurs de printemps of 1864 [fig. 2] and Renoir’s analogous Fleurs de Printemps of 1864 [fig. 3].  He had also looked long and hard at Manet’s still lifes in the 1865 exhibition at the Galerie Martinet and at Cadart’s…When Bazille sent [Etude de Fleurs] as a safe bet to the Salon of 1868, it was Manet who was cited as Bazille’s…example, since Monet and Renoir were still virtually unknown” (p. 331).

When the painting was exhibited in the Salon of 1868, it was attacked by the critic known as J. Ixe who wrote for the Journal de Montpellier.  Ixe denigrated Bazille as a follower of Manet, who was widely recognized as the de facto leader of the avant-garde and the source of a wide range of artistic miscues.  Predictably, the conservative critic also excoriated Bazille’s disregard for academic principles of composition and technique.  But at the conclusion of his comments he added begrudgingly that Etude de Fleurs was “not without character and harmony of color” (p. 331).  Moreover, Bazille’s painting seems to foreshadow a group of remarkable paintings of geraniums in terracotta pots done in the 1880s by Paul Cézanne (see fig. 4). 

Fig. 1, Gustave Courbet, Fleurs (Flowers in a Vase), 1862, oil on canvas, Collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu, CA

Fig. 2, Claude Monet, Fleurs de printemps (Spring Flowers), 1864, oil on canvas, The Cleveland Museum of Art, Gift of the Hanna Fund

Fig. 3, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Fleurs de printemps (Spring Flowers), 1864, oil on canvas, Kunsthalle, Hamburg

Fig. 4, Paul Cézanne, Still Life with Petunias, circa 1885, oil on canvas, Private collection