Born in Limonest, Rhone, 22 January 1862, Joseph Bail was the son of artist Jean-Antoine Bail (1830-1919) and the younger brother of artist Franck Bail (1858-1924). With his brother, he carried on the Realist tradition followed by his father and was influenced by 17th century Dutch painting and the works of artists such as Chardin, Bonvin and Ribot.
Many of his compositions depict cooks at work or at play although he painted a broad range of Realist subjects. His works were popular with critics and the public and he enjoyed success at the annual Paris Salons winning medals in 1886 (Troisieme Classe); 1887 (Deuxieme Classe) and 1889 (D'Argent). In 1900 he received a gold medal at the Exposition Universelle in Paris. His career-long dedication to Realism culminated with the award of the Medal of Honor at the Salon of 1902.
According to Professor Gabriel Weisberg: "This award demonstrated the Salon's commitment to Realism at a time when the tradition was being challenged by a reinvigorated modernist movement that viewed the earlier style as conservative and outmoded.”
However, by the advent of World War I, the art world that Bail thrived in had changed forever. He died in Paris on 26 November 1921, within a few years of his father and brother.
Joseph Bail's works can be found in the following museums: Paris (Pal. Luxembourg, Petit Palais, Musee D'Art Moderne); Lyon; Denain; Montreal (Art Association). The largest collection of his work is in the Musee Lombart, Doullens.
J. Valmy-Baysse: ‘Joseph Bail'. Peintres d'aujourd'hui (Paris, 1910), pp. 361-400
The Realist Tradition: French Painting and Drawing, 1830-1900 (exh. Cat., ed. G.P. Weisberg; Cleveland, OH, Mus. A.; New York, Brooklyn Mus.; St. Louis, MO, A. Mus.; Glasgow, A.G. & Mus.; 1980), pp. 266-7
G.P. Weisberg; ‘Painters from Lyon: The Bails and the Continuation of a Popular Realist Tradition', A. Mag., iv (1981), pp. 155-9
REALISM - Used in reference to 19th Century French Painting, "Realism" meant painting subjects from real life, not necessarily painting realistic looking images. Where many artists of the period painted idealized subjects from mythology and history, realist painters took a separate path, painting everyday subjects (peasants, washerwomen, kitchen workers) and objects (pots, pans, fish, fowl; see for example the painting by Vollon). The leading 19th Century realist was Courbet (1819-77) who was tremendously influential for other artists. Although Courbet could paint with near photographic accuracy, his works were usually broadly rendered, often with paint (impasto) applied to canvas with a palette knife.