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The French artist Jean Frederic Bazille was born on December 6th 1841. He was an impressionist painter who created many fine examples of figure painting during his short life. He was tragically killed, on November 28th 1870, while fighting in the Franco-Prussian war.
One of the most famous examples of his work is La Robe Rose (The Pink Dress), which he painted in the summer of 1864. This is an oil on canvas painting which depicts a lady, sitting on a stone wall, looking towards a village in the far distance. The subject of the painting (Bazille's cousin, Therese des Hours) is shoeless and wears a pink and grey dress along with a black apron. It was painted in the large garden of the family estate of Meric, situated close to Montpellier, where the Bazille family, along with the des Hours, spent their summers.
The village in the background, Castelnau-le-Lez, was situated in a valley below the estate. Although located in the south of France the village, with its colours of white and terracotta, has a distinctly Mediterranean look to it. The painting is of particular interest for a number of reasons. Unlike most portrait paintings the model is shown from the back, gazing into the distance. Preparatory drawings show Therese in the more traditional pose of facing the viewer. However, for the finished painting, Bazille changed this, perhaps to give a more relaxed, contemplative feel to the painting.
The middle ground of the scene is framed by dark trees which accentuate the sunlit village in the distance and acts as a divide between Therese and the background. This was a painting technique widely used by the Barbizon school of artists. Bazille always preferred to paint outdoors, as opposed to a studio, portraying his models and landscapes in a natural light. La Robe Rose is one of the finest examples of this method of painting. La Robe Rose is now hung in the Musee d’Orsay museum in Paris, along with a number of Bazille's other works.