Les Baigneurs (grande planche) [The Large Bathers]
47.4 cm x 62 cm (18 11/16 in. x 24 7/16 in.)
(Aix-en-Provence, 1839 - 1906, Aix-en-Provence)
(1867 - 1939)
(1858 - 1936)
Medium and Support:
Transfer and color lithograph
Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, The Teaching Collection of Marvin Vexler, '48, 1997
Paul Cézanne treated the subject of the bather in more than two hundred works over the course of twenty years, approaching this most conventional of themes in a radically unconventional manner. He created this, his most elaborate print, after his painting of the same composition in 1876–1877 (Barnes Foundation, Merion, Pennsylvania; variation in Musée d’art et d’histoire, Geneva) at the insistence of the dealer Ambroise Vollard.
Uninterested in printmaking, Cézanne used transfer lithography for the project, relying on the printer Auguste Clot to translate his color into print. Each male figure is suspended in a swirl of vegetation, the lack of modeling denying them any volume, the disregard for perspective creating additional tension between representation and surface. Instead Cézanne gave the figures solidity and the composition stability by using bold contours, robust forms, and a rigorous pictorial structure. Yet the ambiguous relationship between man and nature remains, accentuated by the indifferent foreshortening of the thighs of the central figure. Desubstantiated, the figures become mere compositional devices in Cézanne’s exploration of the line between traditional representation and a nascent abstraction.