Arts & Culture

Bathers (Les Grandes Baigneuses)

Paul Cézanneabout 1894-1905

The National Gallery, London
The National Gallery, London

Cézanne painted bathers from the 1870s onwards, including numerous compositions of male and female bathers, singly or in groups. Late in life, he painted three large-scale female bather groups. In addition to the National Gallery's painting, they are now in the Barnes Foundation, Merion, PA, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. He seems to have been at work on all three simultaneously at the time of his death.

In such works, Cézanne was reinterpreting a long tradition of paintings with nude figures in the landscape by artists such as Titian and Poussin. While the subjects of their works were taken from classical myths, Cézanne did not use direct literary sources. Instead, his central theme was the harmony of the figures with the landscape expressed through solid forms, strict architectonic structure, and the earth tones of the bodies. When exhibited in 1907, this painting became an inspiration for the nascent Cubist movement; both Picasso and Matisse took a strong interest in it.

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  • Title: Bathers (Les Grandes Baigneuses)
  • Creator: Paul Cézanne
  • Date Created: about 1894-1905
  • School: French
  • Physical Dimensions: w1961 x h1272 cm
  • More Info: More Artist Information
  • Inventory number: NG6359
  • Artist Biography: Cézanne associated with the Impressionists, but always had other aims. He said that his ambition was to 'make of Impressionism something solid and durable like the art of museums'. Cézanne's work was discovered by the Paris avant-garde during the 1890s. It had a significant influence on Picasso and the development of 20th-century art. Cézanne's boyhood in Provence was dominated by his father, a wealthy banker, and his friend Emile Zola. Under family pressure he trained as a lawyer in his native Aix while attending lessons at the local drawing academy. After moving to Paris he attended a private art school (the Académie Suisse). Cézanne absorbed many influences, including those of Courbet and Manet, in his early years. In his early works he often imitated Courbet, applying thick layers of paint with a palette knife. He later told Renoir that it took him 20 years to realise that painting was not sculpture. In the 1880s his brushwork became increasingly systematic and ordered. He worked slowly and methodically, selecting subjects he could study for long periods.
  • Acquisition Credit: Purchased with a special grant and the aid of the Max Rayne Foundation, 1964
  • Type: Painting
  • External Link: The National Gallery, London
  • Medium: Oil on canvas

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