The present composition was created shortly after Bridgman completed his training under Jean-Léon Gérôme and just prior to his first visit to North Africa, a trip that would alter the direction of his art. In this respect, the present painting should be considered a transitional work. Bridgman rendered most of the scene, in particular the figures, in a tight, polished brushwork typical of a Gérôme student. The beach scene combines classicism with a realistic interpretation, most clearly discerned by the background coastal scene. This scene, with its beautiful idealized nudes and classical garbed female figures most closely relates in theme to Apollo enlevant Cyrene, exhibited in Paris at the 1872 Salon. Bridgman began Apollo during his brief visit to London in 1871 when he did reading in the classics. Bridgman would not return again to classical themes until the 1890s.
Bridgman did produce other beach scenes, such as Having a Good Time (present location unknown), which he showed at the Royal Academy in 1878, and smaller canvases. His stays at various coastal towns, beginning with Pont-Aven, no doubt inspired his interest in such imagery. Because of the present painting's date and bright clear color, it was probably executed in the Midi or along the coast of Spain during Bridgman's visit to the Pyrenees shortly before he set off for North Africa in late autumn of 1872. This period initiated a new interest in landscape painting and natural sunlight for him.
We are grateful to Dr. Ilene Susan Fort for preparing this catalogue entry.