Paul Cézanne: Bathers in landscape

Paul Cézanne: Bathers in landscape

Article from Coco Depink

Paul Cézanne Bathers in landscape.

Paul Cézanne - Study of Four Women Bathing

Four bathing women
Pencil and chalk on verge paper, 203 x 223 mm

Paul Cézanne (Aix-en-Provence 1839–1906) was a Post-Impressionist painter whose work set the roots of the shift from the 19th-century idea of artistic endeavor to an innovative and drastically altered realm of art in the 20th century. Cézanne’s frequently repetitive, experimental brushstrokes are decidedly distinctive and undoubtedly identifiable. He adopted planes of color and minute brushstrokes that shape up to create intricate themes. The paintings deliver Cézanne’s passionate analysis of his subjects.

For many years Cezanne occupied himself with the theme of male or female bathers in a landscape, its apotheosis being the three large compositions with bathing women in London, Philadelphia, and Merion, Pensylvania. In addiction to these paintings, Cezanne created many watercolos and numerous sketches in pencil and black chalk relating to this theme. In fact, representations of bathing figures are known among the artist’s earliest works, and his correspondence with Emile Zola constantly indulges in reminiscences of their joint excursions along the brooks in the countryside around Aix-en-Provence.

From the 1870 on Cezanne explored this theme in dept. He was probably inspired by the paintings of nudes in nature by old masters like Giorgione, Titian, Peter Paul Rubenz, and Nicolas Poussin; but also by those of a direct predecessor like Goustave Coubret, or a contemporary artist like Eduard Manet. Clearly, Cezanne did not aim to render solely the nude, but rather to combine nude figure with nature.

The pencil and black chalk studies for these bating nudes were not drawn from live models. Rather Cezanne referred back to the model drawings from his student days at the Academie Suisse in Paris and his copies after sculptures and paintings. According to Chappuis the figure of the woman drying off in the background of the Rotterdam drawing shows similarities to the statue from classical antiquity of Apoxyomenos now in the Vatican.

Notable in this drawing is the combination of a traditional compositional structure and an impressionistic style of drawing, with his sketchy lines and hatched planes. The draughtsmanship is related to the style of several paintings with dates around 1879/82, such as Three Bathing Women in Paris. In addiction there are extant painted versions of the composition, and one rendition in which a figure has been added in front to the right. Apart from these, some sketches of single figures or groups are know; one of these representing the seated figure on the right, is also in the collection of the Museum Boymans-van Beuningen in Rotterdam.

The Rotterdam drawing of four bathing women immediately gained great renown and was used in 1898 on the invitation to an exhibition of the artist’s work in Ambroise Vollard’s gallery in Paris; it was also reproduced on the frontispiece of Vollard’s 1914 monograph on Cezanne.

The Large Bathers conjures up Cézanne’s investigations through the preceding two decades of his existence. It is possibly the ultimate of his “Bathers” paintings—not just in matter of dimension, but also originality, dynamism, and grandeur. Cézanne evidently had ambitious aspirations for it. Its size conveys it to the majestic representations of historical and religious tropes formerly representing the greatest imperative category in academic groups. Cézanne’s large work reiterated the convention of pastoral painting, but in aptitude it criticized the worn-out bonds of that folklore.

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