As the youngest son of the painter Jean Antoine Bail (1830-1919), Joseph Bail was introduced to the artistic Romantic heritage that characterized painting in Lyon as well as to the development of Realist art that he observed in the canvases of his father.
He received his early training from his father and later in the academic studios of Jean Léon Gérôme and Charles-Emile Carolus-Duran.
Although little is known about his first Salon exhibition in 1878, the compositions he painted throughout the 1880s-portaits (such as those of his parents), genre scenes of cooks, studies of animals, and still-lifes reveal a knowledge of previous painters, such as Chardin, as well as those in the Realist tradition.
His best known canvases included a series of cooks (preparing food, cleaning utensils, smoking, playing cards), suggesting that Bail was familiar with the work of Théodule Ribot and perhaps attempted to achieve the same degree of popularity with a similar theme.
Joseph Bail’s Salon compositions were favourably received during the Third Republic, and he was awarded an honourable mention (1885), a third-class medal (1886), a second class medal (1887), a silver medal at the World’s Fair (1889), and a gold medal (1900).
Because Bail practiced a traditional type of painting based on earlier models, the middle class found his canvases attractive and appealing. His works show a subtle knowledge of light, for he often posed figures in silhouette against a brilliant light source-although he showed no interest in abstracting his form further.
In 1902 he received a medal of honour at the Salon for his continued dedication to the Realist aesthetic at a time when newer modes of painting were capturing the allegiances of younger painters.
Machoïr-Bailly, France, 1991;
To an important private Dutch collection by 1996;
thence by descent to his grand-son in the USA.