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William-Adolphe Bouguereau (French, 1825-1905)
William-Adolphe Bouguereau (French, 1825-1905)

The Bather

William-Adolphe Bouguereau (French, 1825-1905)
Bouguereau, W. A.
The Bather
signed and dated 'W.BOUGUEREAU 1879' (lower right)
oil on canvas
25.1/8 x 16 in. (63.8 x 41.3 cm.)
Painted in 1879
Goupil, Paris.
Harrison Williams, New York.
John Levy Gallery, New York.
Leuder Collection, New York.
Edward Pawlin.
(Acquired by Robert Isaacson from the above).
L. Baschet, ed., Catalogue illustr des oeuvres de W. Bouguereau, Paris, 1885, p. 59 (as Baigneuse assise, quart nature).
M. Vachon, W. Bouguereau, Paris, 1900, p. 154.
B. Martin, "Report from Radical Right," New York Herald Tribune Sunday Magazine, 25 November 1962, p. 8 (illustrated).

New York, John Levy Gallery, Back to Bouguereau, 1932, no. 6.
New York, Robert Isaacson Gallery, Poetic Painters of the XIX Century, 1960, no. 4.
Jacksonville, Florida, Cummer Gallery of Art, Artists of the Paris Salon, 1964, no. 5.
New York, The New York Cultural Center, William Adolphe Bouguereau, 1974, no. 16.
Sale Room Notice
Please note this lot is not exempt from sales tax as set forth in the Sales Tax Notice at the back of the catalogue.

Lot Essay

The Bather exemplifies Bouguereau's strong interest in portraying the "living antique", where the idealized female nude and classical statuary come together into a harmonious whole. This particular pose of the female bather is a paraphrase of the Spinario in the Museo Capitolino, a bronze youth extracting a thorn from his foot. Robert Isaacson, in the New York Cultural Center exhibition catalogue for the Bouguereau exhibition, described the artist's preference for classical pictorial precedents, as well as the development of his painting style. "He never forsook the Grecian ideal, but used it as a base to perfect a personal synthesis of it with 'modern feeling and the modern ideal.' His forms became increasingly monumental, their movements less sinuous and more regular, their coloration ever clearer and more delicate, their atmospheric effects increasingly more convincing" (R. Isaacson, William Adolphe Bouguereau, exh. cat., New York, p. 12). This description aptly fits the present painting, with its simplified, elegant figure surrounded by a clear light adding to the painting's luminous glow.

Bouguereau painted another "Spinario" bather one year later, with a differently posed bather in a forest setting. The standing woman is pulling a thorn from her foot while she grasps a branch with her other hand to steady herself (see Isaacson, no. 21, p. 27). In the present work, the bather sits on a large rock by the seashore, and is surrounded by a cloudy sky with overtones of pale violet. The identical setting appears in another bather composition Les Deux Baigneuses, 1888 (see William Bouguereau, exh. cat., Paris, 1984, no. 112), where the figures are posed on a rock with a misty seashore as the backdrop. In the present painting, the composition is reduced and made monumental as the bather fills the foreground of the composition.

This painting will included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonn on Bouguereau being prepared by Damien Bartoli and Graydon Parrish with the assistance of the Bouguereau Committee.


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