In 1867, Frédéric Bazille spent a month in Aigues-Mortes, a fortified medieval town in southern France. Renowned for its well-preserved ramparts and as the launching point for two Crusades, Aigues-Mortes is also conveniently located less than 20 miles from what was the Bazille family property outside Montpellier.
Of the three paintings that Bazille is known to have completed during his sojourn, The Ramparts at Aigues-Mortes most clearly conveys the feel of a sun-drenched Provençal landscape. The sky and water, intersected by the ramparts, are dominated by brilliant blues, greens, and violets. These cool shades form a striking contrast to the warm ocher of the walls, which is echoed subtly in the earth in the foreground. A surviving sketchbook indicates that Bazille searched tirelessly for the perfect vantage point from which to represent the ramparts, but the apparent fluency in the painting’s execution suggests effortlessness rather than toil.