The artist's workshop is one of the best known oil paintings by the impressionist artist Frédéric Bazille, it not only shows the artist's workshop in the 19th century but is also a faithful portrait of one of the artists However, the painter, behind an apparent relaxed canvas hides a veiled criticism of the rigid parameters imposed by official art circles.
Frédéric Bazille (1841 – 1870) was born into a we althy bourgeois family. His we althy position allowed him to study Fine Arts, however his family insisted that he continue studying medicine at the same time. After meeting Renoir, the artist underwent a profound change in his aesthetic conception and then entered the workshop of Charles Gleyre; in the mid-1960s the artist could no longer conceive of finding himself in any field other than painting. As well as being a painter, the artist acted as a patron of other artists with whom he had a very close relationship; on numerous occasions Bazille bought paintings from impressionist artists when they needed money or even bought material from them or shared a studio with some of them.
The work that concerns us here is an oil on canvas that is currently kept in the Musée d'Orsay, France. The work, en titled the Artist's Workshop or the Condamine Street Workshop, is a small canvas ofhorizontal format – about one hundred and thirty centimeters wide and just over ninety five centimeters high – made around the year 1870. It is a canvas that represents the interior of Bazille's workshop, to which he had moved relatively recently and where some of the most outstanding artists of the time are found.
In the right corner, seated at the piano, we find Edmond Maitre on whom the artist has depicted a still life by Monet. In the center of the composition appears Bazille himself with a paint palette in his hand and showing some of his admirers – possibly Manet and Monet himself – a canvas. In a letter to his brother,Bazille himself commented that the author of his own portrait was Manet; this is shown in the composition of an elongated figure typical of the impressionist aesthetic.
Completing the scene are two more figures, one of them climbing the left stairway which stops midway to chat animatedly with a silhouetted man in the lower left corner. According to critics, these figures could represent the writer Emile Zola and the painter Renoir, however there are some discussions about it.
Special mention should be made of the paintings that hang and adorn the artist's workshop, many of them are works by the young Impressionists that had been rejected in the Official Salons, Bazille's canvas is an allegation to a new aesthetic that gradually will move away from established conventions.