National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Bazille and Camille (Study for Claude Monet (artist)
French, 1840 - 1926
Bazille and Camille (Study for "Déjeuner sur l'Herbe"), 1865
oil on canvas
overall: 93 x 68.9 cm (36 5/8 x 27 1/8 in.) framed: 121.9 x 98.4 x 10.7 cm (48 x 38 3/4 x 4 3/16 in.)
Ailsa Mellon Bruce Collection
1970.17.41
Not on View
From the Tour: Impressionism
Object 6 of 8

An elegant young couple steps into a sunlit clearing from the cool of the Fontainebleau forest. Brightness dances off their clothes, creating the strong highlights that define the curve of the man’s hat and catch the bunched hem of the woman's dress. Shadows fall, not in blacks or grays, but as deeper concentrations of the colors around them.

Monet was one of the young artists who frequented the Café Guerbois, where Manet and other members of the avant-garde discussed art and literature. Monet championed painting out-of-doors—en plein air—as the only way to capture the sensory experience of light and atmosphere. He sought to transcribe a single instant onto the canvas, and here that momentary quality is enhanced by the pose of the couple, who seem only to have paused. Monet knew the pair. The man is his friend and fellow painter Frédéric Bazille, described by novelist Emile Zola as we see him: "Blond, tall and thin, very distinguished." The woman may be Monet's mistress Camille, whom he would eventually marry.

This painting was made as an oil sketch for a much larger work (15 x 20 feet) whose size made painting outdoors impossible. Instead Monet made smaller preparatory paintings out-of-doors, including this one. Only fragments of the final large canvas survive. Monet left it with a landlord to cover a debt, and it was ruined by moisture and neglect.

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