Frederic Bazille was a great Impressionist artist with a short and tragic life. He was the son of wealthy merchants, not really needing anything to do except to inherit the family business when it came time. Instead, he pursued an academic career but quickly dropped that in order to turn his favorite hobby of painting into a career. Chance would have it that he entered the painting studio of artist Charles Gleyre and soon became good friends with Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Claude Monet.
The wealthiest of the three, Bazille often wound up sharing his studio with both Renoir and Monet, and, less often, his house. But he was a kind soul who didn’t complain much, only took the opportunity to watch the immobile painters at work or, as seen in his Portrait of Renoir, in a moment of contemplation. Renoir seems to be completely unaware that anyone was in the room let alone painting him. The light, coming from an unseen source, dapples his clothing in various shades and casts the wall into a myriad of yellows, grays and blues.
Bazille painted a large number of paintings for such a short career. It seemed that wherever he went, whether it was a walk through the woods or a summer party with extended family, the easel, canvas and brushes came too. Not only did he paint landscape scene such as Monet, but also created a fairly large number or portraits, at least for an Impressionist. Usually preoccupied with the outdoors, Bazille manages to bring portraiture and Impressionism together in happy marriage in much the same manner as Renoir.
One of the last works by Bazille is Studio 9 Rue de la Condamine. This is the large, airy studio that Bazille, Renoir and Monet shared during the last few years of Bazille’s life. In the scene many of Bazille’s own works, as well as the others, hang upon the walls. Monet leans over the rail at the left of the painting to tell something to Renoir. In a corner a concert pianist friend by the name of Maitre plays his newest work. And in the center Manet and art critic Zacharie Astruc observe Bazille’s latest work. In the original version there was no overly large Bazille in the dead center or the painting. This was added in a year later, and not by Bazille’s hand.It was at this time that the Franco-Prussian War came about. Bazille joined the army, leaving painting and friends behind. He never returned home, the great painter falling in battle. It was Manet, whom Bazille admired so greatly, that took up his brush and painted the figure of Bazille into his own painting. The humble Bazille who had wanted the viewers to see only his and his friends paintings, not the artist himself, now stands beside his latest, enourmous canvas, animatedly talking about his work, to be remembered by all future patrons of the arts.