Paul Cézanne. The Bather. c. 1885 501

Oil on canvas, 50 x 38 1/8" (127 x 96.8 cm). Lillie P. Bliss Collection. Conservation was made possible by the Bank of America Art Conservation Project

Curator, Ann Temkin: The bather is a perfect subject that combines Cézanne's interest in tradition and modernity. The bather had this extensive history in classical art. There's a certain almost timelessness, even though this is a very modern picture. But there's something still very formal, right? Look at the way his two arms are placed so that his hands are on his hips forming these nice triangles between his body and the arms themselves.

He's looking down. He's obviously very introspective. And I think that's quite a modern, typical projection of an artist, rather than being somebody who's maybe daring and extroverted.

When we look at this picture, it's actually very flat, just imagine in your mind a traditional painting from an earlier century. There would be quite a bit of attempt on the artist's part to show the far-off distance behind the characters he's painting.

With this painting, it feels like Cézanne has put everything into the foreground. And it's almost like the figure has been pushed up right to the front of the picture plane.

Certainly one of the reasons Cézanne is so often thought of as one of the great forefathers of twentieth-century painting is that the main concern is the picture surface. So what's more important is its reality as a picture rather than some reality in actual life that the picture is merely trying to represent.

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