The present lithograph was one of only eight prints which Cézanne made in his entire career. The fact that it appeared at all was largely due to the efforts of the publisher Ambroise Vollard, who wanted to take advantage of the commercial possibilities of large scale lithographs and had persuaded Cézanne to try his hand at the technique. Vollard was keen to establish himself as the leading prints publisher in 1890's Paris, and Cézanne, who respected him, was happy to oblige. Although he realised the potential of this new venture, he was undoubtedly a little apprehensive, and this probably resulted in his decision to borrow the composition from his highly-acclaimed oil painting of 1875-76, Bathers at Rest. Cézanne produced approximately two hundred bather pictures and it was probably the most important recurring theme of his career. Images such as this are crucial to the development of twentieth century art as they were adopted and developed by the avant-garde artists such as Maurice Denis, Matisse, and Picasso.
In 1994 Kitaj remarked that Cézanne 'was the best painter who ever lived' (R.B. Kitaj: A Retrospective, Tate Gallery, London, p. 55). Kitaj's love of Cézanne's work was established early in his artistic career, as a student of Edgar Wind at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, Oxford in 1958. Years later it was Cézanne's Bathers that inspired Kitaj to produce a series of paintings for the National Gallery exhibition Kitaj in the aura of Cézanne and other Masters of 2001-2. In this cycle he draws together his interest in the painter with his other preoccupations: his Jewish identity and the premature death of his wife, Sandra, commenting on love, loss and death. Neil MacGregor, then Director of the National Gallery, said of the exhibition: 'From his [Cézanne's] work and in particular from the National Gallery's Bathers, Kitaj has forged a new language of anger and distress - and of the hope inherent in struggles unfinished. It is a language that can tackle loss and exclusion without despair' (Anthony Rudolf and Colin Wiggins, Kitaj in the aura of Cézanne and other Masters, London, The National Gallery, 2002).