Henry Scott Tuke, R.A., R.W.S. (1858-1929)
Henry Scott Tuke, R.A., R.W.S. (1858-1929)

Variant on A Bathing Group

Henry Scott Tuke, R.A., R.W.S. (1858-1929)
Variant on A Bathing Group
signed 'H.S. TUKE' (lower left)
oil on canvas
26 ¼ x 16 ¼ in. (66.7 x 41.3 cm.)
sold to Thomas Bunt, Falmouth (£27).
with Falmouth Gallery, Falmouth.
with Bayswater Gallery, London.
Brian D. Price, Cornwall.
B.D. Price (ed.), The Registers of Henry Scott Tuke (1858-1929), Falmouth, 1983, no. R791.
D. Wainwright and C. Dinn, Henry Scott Tuke 1858 - 1929: Under Canvas, London, 1989, p.114, pl. 93, as 'Study for Tuke’s Diploma Work, A Bathing Group', 1913.
Falmouth, Falmouth Art Gallery, Coming Home to Falmouth, 1985, no. 44.
Falmouth, Falmouth Art Gallery, Henry Scott Tuke, R.A., R.W.S. (1858-1929), 27 March-20 May 1989, no. 30.

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Lot Essay

The present lot is listed in Tuke’s register as a variant of A Bathing Group (R790) which was deposited as his diploma picture at the Royal Academy as part of his election as a full academician in 1914, and was probably one of the most important paintings Tuke was to create in his artistic career.

Smaller than the final Royal Academy painting, this study was sold for £27 to Thomas Bunt in Falmouth, Cornwall. The main model for both works was Nicola Lucciani, an Italian model whom Tuke had met in London, probably when he was working as a visiting tutor at the Royal Academy Schools. Tuke brought Nicola to Falmouth in 1913, and he featured in several paintings by Tuke at this time. His olive coloured skin and dark features created a contrast to Tuke’s usual Falmouth models and probably reminded him of his frequent trips to Italy where he painted Italian youths on several occasions.

Sadly Nicola was to be one of the many casualties in the First World War as he died in action at Trentino in 1916. Indeed, the picture resonates with a profound contrast between a sunny moment on the idyllic Cornish coast, and the violent, brutal realities of the looming conflict that would take the young man's life.

This work can be seen as the first attempt at Tuke’s composition for his diploma work, and if the two are compared, it is evidence of how he worked to get the final composition. In both works, Nicola is standing in a contrapposto pose with his weight on one leg and the other leg having the knee bent, the shoulder above the straight leg is slightly dropped creating a twist in the body, a pose used by Michelangelo in his sculptures, which Tuke saw on his visits to Italy. In the final work Nicola is more in profile set against barnacle encrusted rocks and seen from the side, whereas in this painting we see his full form silhouetted against the sea standing on a rock. Nicola is holding a pink shirt across his middle, which was changed to a lilac colour in the R.A. version. This is because the palette of colours Tuke uses in the study is in harmony with lower light levels and the light blue background of the sea. However, he made the lighting more dramatic in his diploma work with Nicola’s chest, arms and feet illuminated by strong sunlight.

The other major difference between the two works is the figure bending forward in the foreground faces right in this work leading your eye to the main figure whereas in the RA version Tuke has changed the position of the foreground figure to lean to the left.

We are grateful to Catherine Wallace for her assistance in preparing this catalogue entry.

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