One of the most celebrated French interior designers, Henri Samuel (1904-1996) was renowned for the quality and refinement of his décors, the designer non-pareil for a whole cross-section of clients including serious collectors of art and antiquities, owners of imposing historic homes and connoisseurs with a passion for architecture and decoration. He worked for many decades with a prestigious international clientele and supervised the installations of the Wrightsman and Linsky galleries at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, the XVIIIth Century period rooms at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, and the Empire Rooms at the Château de Versailles and the Grand Trianon. Although he was famous for his XVIIIth century interiors, Henri Samuel was equally talented at mixing antique and contemporary art. His Parisian apartment was a harmonious blend of fine antiquities combined with avant-garde furniture and art, forming an eclectic collection where quality was the common denominator. The contents of his apartment will be sold by Christie's in Monaco on 15 December 1996.
The present painting can be seen as a starting point for the transition from the mechanical figures which characterised Léger's oeuvre during the 1920s, to the monumental and more sculptural figures which he painted in the late 1930s. Such a transition can also be seen in the work of Picasso who in the early 1920s became particularly interested in drawing compositions of Romanesque women in classical settings. There can be little doubt that Léger was influenced by Picasso's decision to approach the human figure in a more volumatic manner.
Judi Freeman continues "By allowing the classical image to surface, in a sense, in the 1930s, and to dominate his 'oeuvre' Léger endowed his own work with a simplicity and clarity that was absent in the close-up and juxtaposed images of the late 1920s. Léger's work and own thinking were clearly in transition in the late 1920s and early 1930s. The work produced during this period is perhaps amongst the most enigmatic, icongraphically-speaking, of his career. But it acts as a kind of bridge between the machine aesthetic of the immediate post-war period, and the monumental figurative work of the late 1930s onward, allowing those two aspetcs of his career to come full circle in effect. The close-up, the fragment, the object, and the objective as rethought, reworked and reshuffled during these years, became the basis for Léger's enduring world view that allows renewed realism to re-enter what had previously been a relatively abstract art" (J. Freeman, 'L'Evénement d'Objectivité Plastique: Léger's Shift from the Mechanical to the Figurative 1926-1933', Fernand Léger The Later Years, exh. cat., Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, 1987-88, pp. 30-31).
Léger often returned to variants on the pose of the woman in La Baigneuse. This can be seen in, for example, Les Danseuses aux Clés (B.698) of 1930, in the Moderna Museet, Stockholm and Adam et Ève (B.838) of 1934, in the Musée National Fernand Léger, Biot.
Quentin Laurens has kindly confirmed the authenticity of this painting.