Frédéric Bazille
The Improvised Field Hospital

The Improvised Field Hospital
Frédéric Bazille (1841-1870)
The Improvised Field Hospital
1865
Oil on canvas
H. 47; W. 62 cm
© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski

L'ambulance improvisée [The Improvised Field Hospital]


This painting of Claude Monet confined to bed with an injured leg, was painted in the summer of 1865. At the beginning of that year, Bazille was sharing his studio with Monet. In the spring, Monet went to Chailly, in the forest of Fontainebleau, to do some open air studies for his Déjeuner sur l'herbe. He urged Bazille to come and join him so that he could use him as a model. Bazille finally arrived in the summer, just before Monet had to break off from his work, following an accident.

The characters in Bazille's paintings are usually motionless, often somewhat fixed. His preference for the static seems to be perfectly suited to these particular circumstances where Monet was unable to move from his bed in his hotel room.
Recalling his time as a medical student, Bazille himself constructed a complicated contraption to make his friend more comfortable. A container, clearly acting as a counterweight, was suspended from two ropes, and blankets piled up to raise the injured leg.

Bazille, whose work falls between Courbet's Realism and a nascent Impressionism, renders the event in every detail. On the untidy bed one can clearly see the red, inflamed wound on Monet's shin, while his face expresses his despondency at being immobilised in this way. The intimacy of the scene demonstrates the bonds of friendship between the two men.


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