The English painter Gerald Kelly recalled a visit to Cézanne's studio in 1905: "He showed us what I thought was a perfectly beastly picture...a huge thing...women rather like trees, and the trees rather like women. Very large, very miserable."
The compositions of bathers were painted entirely from imagination, with only old life drawings, engravings, and photographic reproductions of other works of art to guide the artist. In Cézanne's mind they represented an arcadian vision. They were his contribution to a long tradition in European art, carried on in his lifetime by academic artists who submitted more conservative versions of such subjects to the Paris Salon, the annual state-sanctioned exhibition of contemporary art. Cézanne wanted to rival those artists, and in doing so, he created some of the most powerful, radical, and challenging paintings of the early twentieth century.
Copyright © 2007 National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC