Born in Montpellier in 1841, Frédéric Bazille was – together with Renoir, Monet, and Sisley – one of the leading figures in modern painting.
His life and work, which were brought to a premature end by the Franco-Prussian war of 1870, played an important role in the development of a school of painting stridently opposed to the traditional French academic model, namely Impressionism. Thanks to a long-term loan from the Musée d'Orsay, the Musée Fabre is able to present an exceptional collection of 15 paintings by Bazille, from 23 May to 26 November 2001. The centrepiece of the exhibition is Bazille's masterpiece, A Family Reunion, which also testifies to the profound influence of the Languedoc region on his work. Bazille never exhibited in Montpellier during his lifetime, but the region's landscapes and characters are a distinctive presence in his work, at key moments in his artistic career. The Domaine de Méric, now owned by the City of Montpellier and open to the public, is a recurrent subject, and the setting for many of his studies examining the relationship between the figure and landscape – a genre of which Bazille was an important pioneer. The painter's studio is another important theme, together with members of the Impressionsists' circle, the inventors of modern painting itself. In The Studio on the Rue de la Condamine, Bazille invites the viewer to partake in a lively discussion, in the company of Monet, Manet, Zola and Renoir. The close relationships between these passionate young painters are evoked by their respective portraits – Bazille by Monet, Renoir by Bazille – together with collective studies (the Still-life with Heron, painted by Bazille and Sisley). Bazille's fascination with the human figure is the driving force behind a series of intimate studies of female models, from the first Nude Study painted when he arrived in Paris in 1864, to his voluptuous masterpiece The Toilet, displaying the influence of Manet and Orientalist painting.