Joseph Bail was born in Limonest, in the Rhone region of France. His father, Jean-Antoine, was a genre painter, as was his brother, Frank. Joseph initially studied painting under his father, before briefly entering the atelier of Jean-Léon Gérôme. He exhibited at the Salon for the first time at the age of 16. Bail’s works are predominately genre scenes, generally interiors, including a single figure (often a child posing as maid or cook) strongly lit by a nearby window. Many include reflections in shiny copper or silver kitchenware, perhaps demonstrating the influence of the work of Jean-Siméon Chardin. Bail became a member of the Société des Artistes Français and was named Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur in 1900. He died at the age of 59.
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