The French artist and Post-Impressionist painter Paul Cézanne’s large oil painting titled ‘The Bathers’ (also called The Big Bathers or The Large Bathers and in French ‘Les Grandes Baigneuses’) have many superlatives attributed to it. These include: ‘the largest of his ‘Bather’ series of paintings, one of the masterpieces of modern art, his finest work, etc. Also, The Large Bathers was featured in the BBC Two’s ‘100 Great Paintings’ a television series produced by Edwin Mullins in 1980.
In 1937, the Philadelphia Museum of Art purchased The Large Bathers for US$110,000 from the French Government (Louvre – the collection of Auguste Pellerin, who was one of the original collectors of Cézanne and gifted to the museum by his family).
Though Cézanne painted several works with the title ‘Bathers’, each one of them was different and with each of them he explored new horizons of presenting art and moved away from his own earlier versions of Bathers.
Cézanne wanted to give a timeless quality to his works and break traditions. As was his vision on art, he largely experimented with geometrical forms, visual effects of form and color, and experimented with the human eye’s ability to absorb images and the brains ability to interpret forms and visuals.
Comparisons have been made of Large Bathers with the works of Titian and Peter Paul Rubens, and also with Pablo Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. Interestingly, and conversely, Picasso has also been accused of having used the abstract women’s figures from Les Grandes Baigneuses, with cubist modifications for his painting Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.
Most of Cézanne’s paintings of the Bathers series are in museums like the Louvre, and others are in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and the National Gallery, London.
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