One of a series of semi-nude figures painted around 1905, The Bather closely relates to A Spanish Woman, 1905 (Leeds City Art Gallery). Both demonstrate Orpen's command of anatomy in the powerful modelling of the shoulders and torso. Drawn from Dutch and Spanish Caravaggesque sources, this group encompasses male figures who pose as pauper saints. Understanding of musculature is equally clear from Orpen's drawings, dating back to his years at the Slade. However, the closest correspondence with the present canvas occurs in The Water Nymph, 1905, a watercolour showing the same model emerging from a pool.
This and the present painting may contain a recollection of Rembrandt's celebrated A Woman bathing in a Stream, 1655 (National Gallery, London), a work which had formed part of the national collection for over sixty years by the time Orpen came to London. We know that he was impressed by Rembrandt's brilliance in the Royal Academy winter exhibition of 1899, and was freely quoting from this and other sources at the time.
This work will be included in the catalogue raisonné currently being prepared by Christopher Pearson of the Orpen Research Project.