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Bathers (Les Grandes Baigneuses) by Paul Cézanne

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Bathers (Les Grandes Baigneuses) by Paul Cézanne

Bathers (Les Grandes Baigneuses) by Paul Cézanne is a reinterpreting of a historical tradition of painting nude figures in the landscape by famous artists such as Titian and Poussin. Historically artists took inspiration from classical myths, Cézanne, however, was not depicting a mythological story he was more concerned with the harmony of the figures to the landscape. When this painting was exhibited in 1907, it became an inspiration for Picasso, Matisse and other artists who were exploring and developing new art movements. ‘Bathers’ is reminiscent of earlier artists works and comparisons can be made with more modern works such as Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.

This painting is part of a series of Bather paintings created by Cézanne towards the end of his life, and with each successive version of the Bathers, Cézanne moved further away from the traditional presentation of paintings, intentionally creating works for an audience interested in new forms of art. He wanted to pave the way for future artists to disregard current trends and he focused on painting pieces that give a timeless quality to his work. The abstract nude forms are in symmetry to the triangular and rounded patterns of the trees reminiscent of paintings of landscapes and still lifes. Cézanne claimed,

“I want to make of Impressionism an art as solid as that of the museums.”

Paul Cézanne was a Post-Impressionist painter who laid the foundations in the transition from the 19th-century Impressionism to the 20th century’s Cubism. Both Matisse and Picasso have remarked that Cézanne “is the father of us all.” Cézanne’s art is characterised by repetitive, exploratory small brushstrokes that build up to form complex colour fields, demonstrating his intense study of his subjects.

Reflections

  • What does this painting tell us about how Cézanne viewed art?

Exploring Cézanne

Bathers (Les Grandes Baigneuses)

  • Title:                Bathers
  • French:            Les Grandes Baigneuses
  • Artist:              Paul Cézanne
  • Year:                1894-1905
  • Medium:         Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions    H: 127 cm (50 in); W: 196 cm (77.1 in)
  • Museum:        The National Gallery, London

Paul Cézanne

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“Of course one should not drink much, but often.”
– Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

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Photo Credit: Paul Cézanne [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons