Sunday, May 9, 2010

My intense love for Monet's best friend Frédéric

On visiting the Metropolitan Museum exhibition The Origins of Impressionism fifteen years ago (which was the original inspiration of my novel Claude & Camille: a novel of Monet), I must confess that the painting I fell in love with was an early Monet but the painter I felt I had to know was Frédéric Bazille, the tall medical student from Montpellier who had to paint, who was brilliant, charming, the best of friends and rather self-effacing. He came from a wealthy family and when his friends Renoir, Cézanne, Pissarro, and Claude Monet needed a place to paint or sleep, he gave away every corner of his floor. In one letter when away from the studio he wrote Renoir to search Frédéric's bedroom drawer for Frédéric's pocket watch and pawn it.

We have a great many of the letters he wrote home to his parents whose financial support he needed through his 20s as he made nothing from his art and after what was obviously evasions and lies (how many time could he tell his parents that his medical exams were yet again postponed which was why he hadn't exactly passed them!), he fell happily into a full time life in the arts. He was an excellent amateur actor and playwright, a passionate classical pianist, and the world's best friend. He did not live very long and the others mourned him forever. For a time he was the main character in my novel until Monet took over and then Camille.

This photograph was taken when he was about 24 years old; at that time he was modeling for Monet as a favor and painting at his side, but his style was really not impressionism. It was a gorgeous style just his own and he had hardly begun to develop it when his years were ended. I felt from the first time I saw his picture that I loved him.