1 More
4 More
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more Property from an Important American Collection

Pot de fleurs

Pot de fleurs
signed and dated 'F. Bazille. 66' (lower left)
oil on canvas
39 1/2 x 31 3/4 in. (100.3 x 80.9 cm.)
Painted in 1866
Commandant Hippolyte and Valentine Thérèse Lejosne, Paris (gift from the artist, circa 1868, then by descent).
Dr. F. Shöni, Zurich (acquired from the above, circa 1952).
John Hay and Betsey Cushing Whitney, New York (acquired from the above, 27 October 1960).
The Greentree Foundation, New York (gift from the above, circa 1998); sale, Sotheby's, New York, 5 May 2004, lot 17.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
J. Ixe, "Les artistes Montpellierains au Salon de 1868: Lettres au Directeur du Journal de Montpellier" in Journal de Montpellier, 23 May 1868, no. 21.
G. Poulain, Bazille et ses amis, Paris, 1932, p. 213, no. 13 (titled Fleurs).
D. Wildenstein, "Le peintre des natures mortes" in Arts, 9 June 1950.
F. Daulte, Frédéric Bazille et son temps, Geneva, 1952, p. 173, no. 18 (illustrated; with incorrect dimensions).
H.L.F., "London's Public Glimpse at the Private J.H. Whitney Collection" in Art News, vol. 59, no. 9, January 1961, pp. 36 and 55 (illustrated, p. 36, fig. 2).
J. Rewald, The History of Impressionism, New York, 1973, pp. 113 (illustrated).
F. Daulte, "Une grande amitié: Edmond Maître et Frédéric Bazille" in L'Œil, no. 273, April 1978, p. 38, no. 4 (illustrated; with incorrect dimensions).
J. Bumpus, Impressionist Gardens, Oxford, 1990, p. 45, no. 33 (detail illustrated in color, p. 45; with incorrect dimensions).
F. Daulte, Frédéric Bazille et les débuts de l'Impressionnisme: Catalogue raisonné de l'œuvre peint, Paris, 1992, p. 161, no. 20 (illustrated).
V. Bajou, Frédéric Bazille, Aix-en-Provence, 1993, p. 119, no. 59 (illustrated in color).
M. Schulman, Frédéric Bazille: Catalogue raisonné, peintures, dessins, pastels, aquarelles, Paris, 1995, pp. 141-142, no. 24 (illustrated in color, p. 141).
M. Schulman, Frédéric Bazille: The Digital Catalogue Raisonné (, no. MSb-24 (illustrated in color).
Paris, Palais de l'Industrie, Salon de 1868, May-June 1868, no. 147 (titled Etude de fleurs).
Paris, Wildenstein et Cie., Frédéric Bazille, June-July 1950, no. 21 (titled Etude de fleurs; with incorrect dimensions).
Paris, Musée Jacquemart-André, Le Second Empire, May-June 1957, no. 6 (titled Fleurs; with incorrect dimensions).
London, The Tate Gallery, The John Hay Whitney Collection, December 1960-January 1961, no. 2. Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art, The John Hay Whitney Collection, May-September 1983, p. 16, no. 1 (illustrated in color, p. 17).
Paris, Galeries nationales du Grand Palais and New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Origins of Impressionism, April 1994-January 1995, pp. 331-332, no. 4 (illustrated in color, p. 176, fig. 221; illustrated again, p. 331; titled Etude de fleurs).
Washington, D.C., The Phillips Collection and Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, Impressionist Still Life, September 2001-June 2002, pp. 60, 62, 65 and 198, no. 1 (illustrated in color, p. 65, pl. 11; titled Study of Flowers).
The Cleveland Museum of Arts and London, The Royal Academy of Arts, Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse, October 2015-April 2016, p. 81 (illustrated in color, fig. 64; titled Study of Flowers).
Montpellier, Musée Fabre; Paris, Musée d'Orsay and Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art, Frédéric Bazille and the Birth of Impressionism, June 2016-July 2017, pp. 90-93 and 235, no. 31 (illustrated twice in color, pp. 91 and 235).
Special notice

On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in the outcome of the sale of certain lots consigned for sale. This will usually be where it has guaranteed to the Seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the Seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee. This is such a lot.

Brought to you by

Vanessa Fusco
Vanessa Fusco Head of 20th Century Evening Sale, Head of Impressionist and Modern Art

Lot Essay

A new generation of modern painters emerged in Paris in the 1860s. Frédéric Bazille was among the most promising young members of this group. His premature death on the battlefield of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870 counts among the greatest losses to the history of art. Four years before he died, Bazille painted the exquisite Pot de fleurs: a rare example of a floral still life from his small but brilliant oeuvre. This work was executed at the height of Bazille’s career, during his collaboration with the artists who would live on to become the Impressionists.
Bazille began his career as an artist in Paris in 1862, when he joined the studio of the academic painter Charles Gleyre in Paris. There, Bazille formed friendships with several other students, including Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Claude Monet and Alfred Sisley—all of whom would later participate in the Impressionist exhibitions, the first of which was held four years after Bazille’s untimely death. Bazille and Monet were particularly close and began sharing their own studio in Paris in January 1865. Together, these ambitious young painters shared mutual aspirations: to cast aside the traditional mode of their master; to develop a new, more modern style of painting; and ultimately to independently exhibit their work to the public.
By the late 1860s, however, Bazille and his contemporaries were still bound to the Salon. This juried annual exhibition, sponsored by the Académie des Beaux-Arts, remained the most prestigious and competitive venue for contemporary French artists. To his great disappointment, Bazille’s work had been completely rejected from the Salon of 1867. The following year, however, he successfully submitted two paintings: a monumental family portrait, Réunion de famille (1867-1868, Musée d’Orsay, Paris) and the present work, Pot de fleurs.
According to Michel Schulman, the author of the artist’s catalogue raisonné, Bazille painted both of those works at Méric, his family’s country residence. The twenty-four-year old painter briefly escaped to Méric in August 1866—in part to avoid an outbreak of cholera in the capital city, but also because he longed for the quiet, verdant beauty of the French countryside and the comfort of his family. Méric, located just outside Montpellier, where Bazille was born in 1841, must have been aglow that late summer season; the property comprised open meadows, a cultivated vineyard, a shady terrace with a view of the Lez River, ample flower gardens, as well as a glass greenhouse.
It was in his family’s greenhouse that Bazille conceived the composition of the present work: a panoply of potted flowers, whose lush, brilliantly illuminated petals contrast with the rough dirt floor and dark background. Schulman has identified some of the pink, orange, blue and purple blooms represented here: a hydrangea bush, azaleas, roses, and a variety of happy geraniums. In the foreground, cut flowers (perhaps peonies and lilacs) have been loosely gathered into a bouquet, wrapped in a sheet of paper and set on the ground. Though simple in arrangement, Pot de fleurs represents what John Rewald called Bazille’s “humble and constant effort to penetrate the mysteries of nature” (exh. cat., op. cit., 1983, no. 1). Indeed, this was the primary motivation of Bazille’s Realist art in the 1860s.
In pursuing the subject of flowers, Bazille was probably inspired by the examples of Monet and Renoir, both of whom had recently completed similar floral still lifes. Monet’s Fleurs de printemps (1864, Cleveland Museum of Art) depicts a similar array of potted hydrangeas, peonies and geraniums, while Renoir’s Arums et pots de fleurs (1864, Hamburger Kunsthalle) represents the humble corner of a glass greenhouse. In the following years, Bazille would go on to paint just a few other flowers— notably, an elegant interior arrangement set in a blue-and-white porcelain vase on a Louis XV table (Fleurs, 1867-1868, Musée de Grenoble) and a figurative scene in which a young black woman (a recurring figure in Bazille’s work) arranges loose stems into a bouquet (Jeune femme aux pivoines, 1870, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.).
After the conclusion of the 1868 Salon exhibition, Bazille gave Pot de fleurs to his mother’s first cousins, Commandant and Madame Hippolyte Lejosne; he may have even begun painting the canvas with this gift in mind. Indeed, it was through the Lejosne family, who hosted lively gatherings of artists, musicians and intellectuals in Paris, that Bazille formed several critical connections with other modern painters; there he met Paul Cezanne, Henri Fantin-Latour, Armand Guillaumin, Edouard Manet and Camille Pissarro, among others. Pot de fleurs remained with the Lejosne family for over six decades, until at least 1932, after which the painting passed through a series of other private collections. Between 1960 and 1998, this canvas belonged to the renowned collection of the American Ambassador to the United Kingdom and former President of The Museum of Modern Art in New York, John Hay Whitney and his wife, Betsey Cushing Whitney.
Throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, Pot de fleurs has also been featured in several landmark exhibitions in the United States and France—including The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s The Origins of Impressionism (1994-1995), Impressionist Still Life at the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C. (2001-2002), and the major monographic exhibition, Frédéric Bazille and the Birth of Impressionism at the Musée d'Orsay and National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. (2017).

More from 20th Century Evening Sale

View All
View All