Executed in 1894.
After studying at the Art Sudent's League in New York, Theodore Butler traveled to Paris in the 1880's where his artistic career would soon flourish. Conscious of the prevailing social, scientific, and artistic milieu that consumed the avant-garde of the time, Butler was able to synthesize these influences into unique canvases that would later distinguish him as an important expatriate artist of his day.
Butler painted a series of bathing pictures over a period of two and a half years that totaled approximately twenty-five works. He commenced these paintings the year after he married the daughter of Claude Monet and demonstrated his intricate style of composition and sensitive approach to depicting familial, ordinary routine in genre scenes while developing his own Impressionistic style. Le Bain, Maison Baptiste shows Butler's wife, Suzanne, in a light infused interior bathing their first-born son James in a small tub. Mingling strong diagonal and vertical lines with the more free flowing circular forms found in the bathtub, chairs, and female figures, Butler has created a unique scene of abstracted forms and dissolved color that demonstrate his modern approach to composition. Butler's quick strokes of pigment fuse together in many layers to create a fury of light and color, heightening the play of illumination and movement in the scene. Discussing Le Bain, Maison Baptiste, R.H. Love notes that "for Butler, light and color were of paramount importance to this success of his picture, but not in the typical Impressionistic way. By this time, the way he painted it, luminosity was something more than natural light. Butler's light is poetic, symbolic, even ethereal." (Theodore Earl Butler: Emergence from Monet's Shadow, 1985, p. 139)
Butler's dynamic Impressionist style continues the artistic tradition set forth by the French Impressionists while demonstrating the artist's own sense of modernity. Le Bain, Maison Baptiste exhibits Butler's keen interest in pursuing these impressionist ideals. A unique sparkle of light pervades the room and dances off of each figure and object with every wisp of color that Butler has laid down on the canvas. Although he did not receive critical acclaim until later in his career, Butler's works resonated within the Parisian artistic community and helped to distinguish him as a highly skilled and provocative painter. "Another one of the baby-bathing series, this canvas shows Butler at his impressionistic best, but in many ways it transcends impressionism. Without questions, this is one of Butler's masterworks." (Theodore Earl Butler: Emergence from Monet's Shadow, p. 139)
This work will be included in Patrick Bertrand's forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the work of Theodore Earl Butler.