Paul Cézanne. The Bather. c. 1885

Paul Cézanne The Bather c. 1885

  • MoMA, Floor 5, 501 The Alfred H. Barr, Jr. Galleries

In the 1870s, Cezanne began depicting scenes of bathers—groups of men and women lounging, swimming, and standing in and around wooded watering holes. In this work, he focused on the figure of a single young man standing with hands on hips, one foot in front of the other, and eyes downcast. Cezanne admired classical traditions of landscape and portraiture, yet compared with the muscular bodies and idealized proportions of academic painting, this bather appears awkward—both physically ungraceful and psychologically remote. The painting’s unified palette and brushstrokes likewise defy the conventional hierarchy of figure over background: here they are almost interdependent, set apart by the distinct black outline of the bather’s body but also echoing and sometimes dissolving into one another.

The artist began his career as an Impressionist painter, and his work reflects the influence of that movement’s experiments with the optical effects of color. Cezanne, however, was not interested in color’s atmospheric properties, as the Impressionists were, but instead explored its qualities of solidity and space, trying, as he said, “to render perspective solely by means of color.” Whereas the Impressionists painted from life, Cezanne based this bather on a photograph of a man posed in a studio, transferring him in paint to an outdoor scene.

Publication excerpt from MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art, New York (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2019)
Medium
Oil on canvas
Dimensions
50 x 38 1/8" (127 x 96.8 cm)
Credit
Lillie P. Bliss Collection. Conservation was made possible by the Bank of America Art Conservation Project
Object number
1.1934
Department
Painting and Sculpture

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This work is included in the Provenance Research Project, which investigates the ownership history of works in MoMA's collection.

Ambroise Vollard (1866-1939), Paris, by 1900 [1]; sold to Paul Rosenberg (1881-1959), Paris, by 1917 [2]; sold to Marius de Zayas (1880-1961), New York [3]; sold to Lillie P. Bliss (1864-1931), New York, by 1921 [4]; acquired by The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1934 (Lillie P. Bliss Collection).

[1] John Rewald, The Paintings of Paul Cézanne, vol. 1, New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1996, no. 555. Vollard stockbook no. 3453[A] (1899-1904). Purchase price: 200 francs. Possibly included in the exhibition Figures de Cézanne, Galerie Vollard, June 27-July 23, 1910 (no. 1: Baigneur). Offered to the American collector John Quinn by Vollard around 1910 (see Robert Jensen,
"Vollard and Cézanne: An Anatomy of a Relationship," Cézanne to Picasso: Ambroise Vollard, Patron of the Avantgarde, ed. by Rebecca Rabinow, exh. cat. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2006, p. 38).
[2] Rewald 1996, no. 555. Offered for sale at the exhibition Französische Kunst des XIX. und XX. Jahrhunderts, Kunsthaus Zurich, October 5-November 1917 (no. 38, repr.). Exhibited at Galerie Paul Rosenberg, Paris, in 1917.
[3] Rewald 1996, no. 555.
[4] Ibid. Lent anonymously to Loan Exhibition of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Paintings, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, May 3 to September 15, 1921 (no. 10).

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