The Château de Bachivillers

Photographie du château de Bachivillers. ©DR.

When Durand de Brêtizel bought the Bachivillers estate in 1800 he found a modest country house of several adjoining rooms. Outbuildings, - stables, byres, sheep folds and barns framed a large courtyard.  Two years later he knocked down the house and constructed a new house with rebuilt dependencies set further back. The work was done between 1808 and 1825 under the supervision of the estate farmer Jean-Baptiste Crévecoeur who bought the château from the Brétizel family in 1838.

The estate was put on the market after World War One and now belongs to the Dornès family. The château is a pleasant, well-proportioned manor house of red brick with grey stone trim. A central three-story block has two story wings on each side.
In the 1890s, following a suggestion by Camille Pissarro, Mary Cassatt looked for a summer residence in the Vexin region. She discovered Bachivillers and spent three summers there, 1891, 1892 and 1893. Unfortunately, the owner married and his new wife insisted on living in the château herself. Very disappointed, Mary had to look for another country retreat and in 1894 she bought the Château de Beaufresne in Mesnil-Théribus. She lived there mainly in the summer, until her death in 1926.

During her last summer in Bachivillers in 1893, she received an unexpected commission for the Women’s Pavilion at the Chicago World's Fair She was asked to paint a monumental allegory to the glory of Modern Women. Mary Fairchild MacMonnies was to paint a facing mural on Primitive Woman. After some hesitation at the scale of the commission, she accepted and set up her workshop in the huge woodshed near the château. She even had a ditch dug which was deep enough to enable her to manipulate and paint the triptych.

Mary Fairchild MacMonnies, Primitive Woman and Mary Cassatt, Modern Woman. Photographs from M. H. Elliot, ed., Art and Handicraft at the Woman’s Building of the World’s Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893, p. 35

Her mural disappeared after the exhibition and there remains only one painting referencing this monumental work - her canvas Young Woman Picking Fruit (Pittsburg, Carnegie Museum of Art) which was inspired by the central panel. Cassatt sent the mural to Chicago in 1893 but didn’t attend the inauguration.