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Baigneurs
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Baigneurs
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Baigneurs

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About the item

Baigneurs, painted circa 1890-95, is an exquisite work representing one of the preeminent subjects of Cézanne art. The image of bathers preoccupied Cézanne from the 1870s onwards and, as the most important consistently recurring theme in his œuvre, provided a focus for his creative energy. This ground-breaking group of works revolutionised the traditional concept of representing the human figure by modulating it according to the picture's structure and colour planes. As such this series proved crucial to the development of twentieth century art. The present picture epitomises Cézanne's development towards a new visual language, which presupposes a fundamental difference between painting and reality in nature. The human body, far from aspiring to the classical ideal so long pursued by European artists since the time of the ancient Greek civilisation, becomes the result of a pictorial process of construction, increasingly integrated into the picture's context. While the two central figures in the foreground of Baigneurs are still discernible, the artist introduces a remarkable blurring of distinctions between the three other figures and the vegetation that surrounds them. Nature is not perceived through its different surfaces and forms, but through an interplay of contrasts, patterns and colour planes that create the actual composition of the picture. As John Rewald commented of a similar work, 'there is, combined with spontaneity, a splendid cohesion of shapes and colours... All that is essential seems to have been said' (J. Rewald, Cézanne, The Late Works, New York, 1977, p. 399).\nWhile working on this and other bather pictures of the 1890s, Cézanne preferred to rely for his source on the repertoire of studies and pictures from earlier periods. When Francis Jourdan visited him in 1904, Cézanne indicated that he had long stopped asking his models to remove their clothes: 'The painting ... is in here, he added, beating his brow' (quoted in Gottfried Boehm, 'A Paradise created by Painting', in Paul Cézanne, The Bathers, Basel, 1989, p. 18). Cézanne had thus taken on a conceptual quality as he worked towards resolutions of bather subjects, based on reality only in the loosest sense.\nThe compositional origins for the present picture stretch back to Cézanne's Zola-inspired figurative works of 1868-70, such as La Tentation de Saint Antoine and Déjeuner sur l'herbe. The standing nude to the left of the composition, seen from the back, appears in the closely related oil, Baigneurs of 1890-94 now in the Musée d'Orsay, Paris, the only other composition of this group that depicts this figure holding the towel over the left arm (fig. 1). While the present composition is slightly smaller than the Paris version, it is more resolved and the palette is stronger and more resonant. The vivid blue colouration and dynamism of its execution distinguish this work from other comparable canvases from a similar period such as the Groupe de baigneurs in the Philadelphia Museum of Art (fig. 2).\nDiscussing the present work in the catalogue of the exhibition Cézanne in Britain which was held at the National Gallery in London, Anne Robbins writes: ‘Extraordinarily fresh and energetic, it is, however, highly resolved and shows a real coherence of shapes and colours. Cézanne used a strong, bright palette dominated by blue tonalities, counterbalanced by warm hues of yellow, orange and russet. In some places the figures are underlined with vibrant blue or black contours, quickly drawn with the brush, which animate their statuesque bodies. […] Rather than integrating with the landscape Cézanne’s lively and effervescent bathers melt into it, dissolving into their natural surroundings, in an image of happiness and joie de vivre’ (A. Robbins, Cézanne in Britain (exhibition catalogue), op. cit., p. 85).
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medium

Oil on canvas

creator

Paul Cézanne

condition

The canvas is lined. There are some very small spots of retouching on the lower edge, visible under ultra-violet light (not visible when framed). Apart from a small spot of surface dirt on the back of the second figure from the left (visible in the catalogue illustration), this work is in very good condition. Colours: Overall fairly accurate in the printed catalogue illustration, although the yellows and oranges have a slightly softer tonality in the original. "In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF BUSINESS PRINTED IN THE SALE CATALOGUE."

dimensions

19 by 26cm.

exhibition

London, The National Gallery, Cézanne in Britain, 2006-07, no. 33, illustrated in colour in the catalogue

literature

Lionello Venturi, Cézanne, son art - son œuvre, Paris, 1936, vol. I, no. 388, catalogued p. 149; vol. II, no. 388, illustrated pl. 106 (as dating from 1879-82) Francis Jourdain, Cézanne, Paris & New York, 1950, illustrated n.p. Alfonso Gatto & Sandra Orienti, L’Opera completa di Cézanne, Milan, 1970, no. 550, illustrated p. 111 (titled Cinque uomini and as dating from 1879-82) Gaëtan Picon & Sandra Orienti, Tout l'œuvre peint de Cézanne, Paris, 1975, no. 550, illustrated p. 111 (as dating from 1879-82) Theodore Reff, ‘Cézanne’s Late Bather Paintings’, in Arts Magazine, New York, October 1977, vol. LII, illustrated p. 118 John Rewald, The Paintings of Paul Cézanne. A Catalogue Raisonné, London & New York, 1996, vol. I, no. 752, catalogued p. 460; vol. II,  no. 752, illustrated p. 257

provenance

Louis Vauxcelles, Paris Paul Rosenberg, Paris Henri-Jacques Laroche, Paris Private Collection, France (acquired by descent from the above) Pierre Berès, Paris (acquired from the above circa 1963. sold: Sotheby’s, London, 27th November 1995, lot 11) Purchased at the above sale by the present owner

time_period

Painted circa 1890-95.

consignmentDesignation

Property from a Private Collection

creator_nationality_dates

1839 - 1906


*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.

*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.


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