Thursday, 31 July 2008

Art: Renoir - The Bathers

The Bathers


1887
170.8 x 117.8 cm
Oil on Canvas
Philadelphia Museum of Art

Linda Nochlin, the Lila Acheson Wallace Professor of Modern Art at New York University's Institute of Fine Arts gave a lecture at Harvard University on Feb 24, 2004 (reported here). The report includes the following remarks from Nochlin:

"It was also a time when bathing and swimming were enjoying a new popularity among both women and men as a form of health-giving exercise. Nochlin showed a succession of slides illustrating this growing trend, engravings from the popular press showing women in modestly baggy bathing costumes splashing about in the new "piscines" or swimming pools, as well as satirical drawings by the artist Honoré Daumier mocking these grotesque and misshapen "Naiads of the Seine."

Parisian attitudes were divided on the subject of water sports for women. On the one hand, immersion in the "pure" water of the upper Seine (the early piscines were enclosed barges that let in the river water) was considered healthy and edifying. On the other hand, it was feared that the piscines were becoming the haunt of theater women and others of low moral character who would pollute the premises by drinking and smoking and generally carrying on like men.

But in addition to reflecting contemporary preoccupations with women and water, Renoir's painting, in Nochlin's view, also represents a change in artistic style, driven in turn by social and economic forces.

In contrast to Renoir's earlier impressionistic works, which portray a realistic, albeit consistently sunny, world in which men and women interact in recognizable settings, "The Great Bathers" presents an idealized world divorced from the modern urban milieu. In technique, it eschews the loose brushstrokes and dappled play of light of the impressionist period for a firmer, more sculptural rendering."

1 comment:

Helen said...

You've obviously done a lot more travelling than I have Sally and what wonderful things you've seen.
My husband and I might go to Europe next year for a few weeks, so maybe I'll catch up on some culture. This isn't about swimming, but there's an exhibition currently on at the Australian Centre for Photography, 257 Oxford St., Paddington by Marian Drew. Her photos are in the tradition of European still-life paintings from the 17th century. It's very confronting, as, for her subjects, she uses native wildlife, killed on the road in Tasmania. I'm an animal lover, but even so, found it hauntingly beautiful and I think it's really worth visiting. It's free and runs till August 30. Weekends 10am till 6pm, Tuesday to Friday, noon till 7pm. It was advertised in last Saturday's Good Weekend magazine. Making it even better, just up the road is a Max Brenner Chocolate Bar - the dark chocolate mochas are amazing!!