Paul Cézanne (1839-1906)
Paul Cézanne (1839-1906)

Cinq baigneuses (recto); Etudes de baigneuse (verso)

Paul Cézanne (1839-1906)
Cinq baigneuses (recto); Etudes de baigneuse (verso)
pencil on paper, squared for transfer (recto); pencil on paper (verso)
5 3/8 x 5 ¼ in. (13.7 x 13.5 cm.)
Drawn in 1879-1882
Ambroise Vollard, Paris.
Richard S. Davis, Minneapolis.
The New Gallery, Inc. (Eugene V. Thaw), New York.
Acquired from the above by the late owner, February 1960.
A. Vollard, Paul Cézanne, Paris, 1915, p. 180 (recto illustrated, p. 174).
L. Venturi, Cézanne: son artson oeuvre, Paris, 1936, vol. I, p. 327, no. 1490 (recto illustrated, vol. II, no. 1490; dated 1883-1887).
A. Chappuis, The Drawings of Paul Cézanne: A Catalogue Raisonné, London, 1973, vol. I, p. 154, no. 517 (recto illustrated, vol. II).
G. Ballas, Cézanne: Baigneuses et Baigneurs, Thème et Composition, Paris, 2002, p. 280, no. 51 (recto illustrated).
W. Feilchenfeldt, J. Warman and D. Nash, The Paintings, Watercolors and Drawings of Paul Cézanne: An Online Catalogue Raisonné (, nos. FWN 2029 and FWN 2025 (recto and verso illustrated in color).
Kunstmuseum Basel, Paul Cézanne: die Badenden, September-December 1989, p. 138, no. 101a (recto illustrated in color).
Paris, Galeries nationales du Grand Palais; London, Tate Gallery and Philadelphia Museum of Art, Cézanne, September 1995-August 1996, p. 202, no. 63 (recto illustrated in color, p. 203).

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Lot Essay

“Cézanne…is the most copious source of what we know as modern art, the most abundant generator of ideas and the most enduring in newness” (Clement Greenberg, Cézanne and the Unity of Modern Art, 1951, New York).

The bathers motif—groupings of unidealized, unabashed nudes in richly verdant settings—was a seminal subject of Cézanne’s oeuvre. Cinq baigneuses is the preliminary graphite sketch for a larger oil painting of the same title, in which the figures maintain the same postures and configurations.
Cézanne would create studies and sketches of isolated individual figures from the works of old masters in order to explore the dramatic and dynamic way these forms can create complex spatial arrangements. Cinq baigneuses is indicative of Cézanne’s focus on the variety of postures associated with the classical nude—standing, crouching, pointing and bathing. The subtle overlap of the bather’s forms in Cinq baigneuses emphasizes the dynamism present in the linear organization developed by the varied figures, rather than the individuals themselves.
Cinq baigneuses melds the corporeal and the botanical; the energetic modeling that defines the bodies of the bathers begins to blend seamlessly with their bucolic surroundings. This quality is also present in the oil version, as the long, flowing tresses of the left-most bather meld and become indistinguishable from the tree that frames her. This particular grouping of bathers, a neatly balanced five, is echoed in some of the greatest works of modernism to follow Cézanne, from Pablo Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d'Avignon to Henri Matisse’s La Danse.
“Cézanne's bathers have functioned as a source, an origin, a prize to be struggled over,” Tamar Garb writes. “Their radical assault on traditional modes of representation has become a cliché of conventional critical wisdom while the unorthodox, clumsy appearance of both the figures and the landscape, so shocking to many of their first viewers, is now enshrined as the foundation of their greatness. Cézanne's 'inquiétude' as Picasso famously called it, has become legendary, even exemplary” (“Visuality and Sexuality in Cézanne's Late Bathers,” Oxford Art Journal, vol. 19, no. 2, 1996, pp. 46-60).

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