The bathers

It says here: The woman is seen from behind stepping out of a small pool, naked except for a cloth that covers her lower buttocks. She makes a gesture towards her maid, who is sitting on the ground taking her shoes and stockings off. The maid is looking at the woman, but it’s unclear what they might be thinking or saying to each other. The public objected to its vulgarity and pointlessness. The rule for nudes in paintings of this time (1853) were that they were to be graceful, classical figures. The subject of a nude bather with her clothed companion was common enough, but usually there was some sort of biblical or mythological narrative being told. Courbet’s painting lacks this narrative. As soon as it was exhibited it excited controversy. The Salon was forced to accept the painting because in 1848 Courbet had won a medal and was exempt from the selection process. The covering of the bather’s lower buttocks seemed to be an attempt by Courbet at avoiding controversy, possibly painted on as an afterthought. The painting was called ‘dirt’ and condemned as being subversive. The bather was described as a piece of meat on a butcher block and the stark contrast between the lights and the darks in the painting gave his critics reason to call the painting ‘sooty’.

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5 Responses to The bathers

  1. OS says:

    I wouldn’t even put this one in my bog. It has about as much appeal to me as one of Pulis’s away team selections. I was going to put a link to another of Courbet’s paintings that I do like, but I don’t want to steal your thunder.

    NB: Have you had a look ‘over there’ at Pottermouth? I’m getting excited now.

  2. Stephen Foster says:

    You should write review copy for Modern Painters, you have a unique incisive style.

    I am excited, but it would be better if Boskamp took us there; perhaps they can give him the gig for a day?

  3. OS says:

    The picture. I see it; I study it; it doesn’t appeal to me in any way and neither do I want to try and understand it. It’s like a book on a subject matter that doesn’t interest me. Although, now we’ve discussed it, I’m becoming more intrigued by the message it’s giving out, but I still wouldn’t want it in my bog. 😉

    Bossie taking us to Wembley would be a great subject for a fiction novel. 🙂

  4. Daftburger says:

    Is the one coming out of the water, incidentally without making any sort of ripple so there’s your allegorical text, saying don’t come near me I’ve caught crabs again?

    It wasn’t sexy until Stephen pointed out the maid taking her stockings off! 😛 That makes it pure filth!

    Is it the two Ronnies? Courbet and the others a rayte Barker?

    This Hart interpretation is easy!

  5. Stephen Foster says:

    Thanks for your inimitable input M Burger. You are the Clement Greenberg of Bageley End.

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