As Paul Perrin writes, “Fréderic Bazille, who was killed before reaching the age of twenty-nine, painted only just over sixty pictures in less than eight years. During his lifetime, he sold not a single one and exhibited only five at the Salon. His early demise prevented him from taking part in the flourishing of Impressionism and sharing the success of his friends Monet and Renoir, and any attention his paintings, nearly all kept at his parents’ home in Montpellier, were getting was exclusively from his family and their visitors. Everything seemed to be conspiring to condemn the artist to the limbo of art history, and yet, a hundred and fifty years on, we find Bazille’s work in the world’s most famous museums, and being celebrated once more” (Paul Perrin, “Frédéric Bazille’s Fame has Only Just Begun,” in Frédéric Bazille (1841-1870) and the Birth of Impressionism (exhibition catalogue), Musée Fabre, Montpellier, Musée d’Orsay, Paris & National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 2016-17, p. 203).
Bazille gave up his medical studies in Paris in the early 1860s in order to devote himself entirely to painting, enrolling in the studio of the academician Charles Gleyre, where his fellow students included Monet, Renoir and Sisley. Being of relatively comfortable means, Bazille was generous to his less fortunate artist friends; he would often let his colleagues use his studio in Batignolles and borrow his materials. Fellow residents included the poet Stéphane Mallarmé and Édouard Manet. Renoir would move in with Bazille around 1868 and later so would Monet. As Bazille described in a letter to his mother: “Monet has popped up out of nowhere with a collection of magnificent canvases… With Renoir, that makes two hard-up painters I am putting up. It’s quite an infirmary here” (quoted in Michel Schulmann, Frédéric Bazille, 1841-1870, Catalogue raisonné: peintures, dessins, pastels, aquarelles; sa vie, son oeuvre, sa correspondence, Paris, 1995, p. 354, translated from French).
Bazille’s rooms on the rue de la Condamine are immortalized in one of his most famous paintings, now also in the collection of the Musée d’Orsay, depicting himself with Renoir, Zola, Manet and Monet engaged in an intense discussion about a canvas.
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