He could have been one of the most famous painters in history, his name drawing crowds of visitors to his exhibitions, his paintings selling for millions of dollars. Today French artist Frédéric Bazille is mostly forgotten. But he was there, in the right place, at the right time, on the cusp of making history with his fellow friends, soon-to-be Impressionists, Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley.
Bazille died during the Franco-Prusac war in 1870, just before turning 29 and four years prior to the first exhibition that the Impressionists ever had. One can only imagine how Bazille’s work could have transformed in time, how it would have gradually been stripped of its realism, revealing its very essence.
Still, there were early signs he understood the importance light and movement played in art. Family Reunion is a good example where, despite witnessing the scene of a somber and morose gathering (Bazille’s own family), your gaze naturally flees to the right, embracing the sky, the moving clouds and the summer breeze, savoring the radiant sunlight passing through the tree canopy. Bazille worked for months on this painting, eventually including his own self-portrait in the far left.