Paul Cézanne, Bathers, 1894-1905

20 Dec

Influenced by Impressionism, Post-Impressionist French artist Paul Cézanne was often compared to established Academic painters like William-Adolphe Bouguereau and Alexandre Cabanel. When compared to the careful modeling of the human form, perfectly blended colors, and hidden brushstrokes of Bouguereau and Cabanel, Cézanne’s flat figures, sketchy brushwork, and unmodulated colors were seen as unintentional and incompetent. Eventually, and thanks to the precedents set by artists like Gustave Courbet and Édouard Manet, Cézanne’s style began to be seen as intentional and exemplary, allowing works like Bathers to influence later artists and styles.

Bathers is Cézanne’s endeavor to not paint like Bouguereau or Cabanel. The conscious absence of those Academic elements allowed Cézanne to define a new way in which to relate to the world. The eleven nude female figures are abstract and sculptural instead of carefully formed to represent the ideal nude body. Cézanne moves from color to color instead of tone to tone, rejecting photographic likeness of body and landscape. The brushstrokes are sketchy and used to show a change in color and light. Cézanne uses plains of color to suggest dimension, but the collapse of the figures within the landscape makes it hard to forget that you are looking at a two dimensional painting. Cézanne  plays with illusion, as the brushstrokes don’t conform to the optical qualities of an object but to the tactile qualities. This changed how one interacted with a painting and defined a new, Modern tradition of looking at a painting.



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