Are we having fun yet? The answer appears to be a definitive “no” in this painting by Frédéric Bazille of his bourgeois family at their country home in Montpelier. But as we’ve discussed previously, most of the subjects of Impressionist paintings aren’t smiling, so just what is it that makes this painting feel different?
It’s due to the fact that each figure can also be read as an individual portrait. All are stiff and posed, as if for a camera. Most of the ten subjects (nine of Bazille’s family members with the artist in the upper left) stare straight out and appear to directly address the viewer.
Compare this with Monet’s Women in the Garden painted the year before. Here the focus is more clearly on the garments and the effect of light on the dresses, not as much on the individuals. Bazille was, however, very inspired by Monet’s en plein air painting and worked closely with the artist, even sharing a studio at one point. He also purchased Women in the Garden from Monet shortly after it was finished, so Family Reunion likely took some sun-dappled influence from Monet’s painting of contemporary fashion out of doors.
—Tricia Patterson, Marketing Coordinator
Image Credit: Frédéric Bazille. Family Reunion, 1867. Musée d’Orsay, Paris.