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Pierre Labeau's Reviews of the works of Frederic Bazille

The story of Frederic Bazille truly was a tragedy. The agonies of war took one of the greats right out from under our noses. Bazille was one of the more talented, and respected, artists of the Impressionist circle. Using my patented Labeau Model 39X Time Machine, I took a trip back in time and visited Bazille's studios, his home, and his Salon exhibits, in an effort to provide a more modernistic look at the works of this truly talented man.

 
The characterizing feature of Bazille's work is a painstaking disposition of the elements of a nominally informal subject. A group portrait of his Family Gathering, 1867 (Wetcanvas! Virtual Museum, Record 26), a picture more than eight feet long which was exhibited in the Salon of 1868, is filled with a curious, stiff, unnatural stillness that extends even to the leaves on the trees in the distance. It is anything but impressionistic.
 
The yet more curious Summer Scene, Bathers (Wetcanvas! Virtual Museum, Record 34), painted in 1869 and exhibited in the Salon of 1870, shows a further imposition of rigid pattern, now geometrical, on a scene filled with casual attitudes - or, at least, attitudes transfixed from casualness into Bazille's odd rigidity. Compositionally the picture is closer to "neo-impressionism" than to impressionism, and it is difficult to avoid pointless conjectures as to the course impressionism might have taken if Bazille had lived beyond the first period, for that is what it amounts to, of what must have been an exceptional creative life.
 
A third painting, somewhat freer in technique, has poignant associative interest. This interior of The Artist's Studio on the rue la Condamine (Wetcanvas! Virtual Museum, Record 35) shows a group of young friends. Renoir is seated at the extreme left. Just above him, on the stair, is Zola. Manet stands in front of a painting on an easel. Behind him is Monet, and standing at the side of the easel is Bazille himself. Manet painted this figure, or at least Bazille's head. At the far right their musician friend Edmond Maitre is at the piano.

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