In July 1909, summering with his family in the South of France, Matisse prepared for a commission from Russian businessman Sergei Shchukin. Although the eventual result was two decorative panels representing dance and music, the artist’s plan originally included a composition of bathers, to which this canvas relates. As Matisse worked on Bather he made many adjustments in pencil and paint to the form and pose of the figure. He repositioned the bather on the canvas, modeling the body's volumes and adjusting earlier contours with long, repeated brushstrokes.
Gallery label from Matisse: Radical Invention, 1913-1917, July 18–October 11, 2010.