Frédéric Bazille: View of the Village

View of the Village: Frédéric Bazille

View of the Village is an 1868 painting A French painter of the Barbizon school, Frédéric Bazille paints in 1868 a view of the village with a girl looking out at us, seated on a ledge that is shrouded by a dark overhanging tree.

View of the Village Analysis

This is an oil painting by Jean-Frédéric Bazille showing a young woman sitting on a hillside with, behind her, a French village immersed in greenery.

Her gaze seems to invite us to look out across the expansive landscape that is in golden sunlight. The village is called Castelnau-le-Lez in the Occitane region of southern France, and the artist clearly revels in the luminous Mediterranean sunlight that is as much the theme as the landscape is.

The village is one in the Hérault department, therefore the scene belongs to the Mediterranean coast of France. The young woman giving us a particularly serious look is the daughter of the Bazille family’s gardener at their Mediterranean residence.

This is a pre-Impressionistic artwork in Bazille’s career, which was not entirely executed en plein air. It shows his familiarity with the lesson of the Barbizon school that different areas in a picture may be given different stresses through chromatic opposition.

The village in the background is therefore lit up by strong natural light which softens its hues almost to the point of dissolution. By contrast, the woman and the vegetation close to her are more strongly colored as well as darkened by the effect of shade. The opposition guides and structures our interest in the painting’s spaces.

Bazille’s focus is certainly the young woman, whose complexion and tasteful dress are elaborated on in detail. View of the Village is to be studied alongside The Pink Dress of four years prior, in which a similarly dressed young woman sits before a landscape vision of a town, but with her back turned to us. In that case, the woman’s presence seemed to communicate interest, shared with the viewer, for the town as seen from a position of vantage.

In View of the Village, the woman becomes the primary subject as she addresses us directly with her gaze and becomes our first, unavoidable point of contact with the picture.

View of the Village Location

Frédéric Bazille’s View of the Village is in the Musée Fabre in Montpellier, France.

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