Nude bather
(Emile Bernard)


Emile Bernard

The Nude Bather

The Nude Bather, a painting of a young female bather enigmatically and quizzically looking out of the canvas at the spectator, with a shy and almost bashful expression,would seem to be a homage by Emile Bernard to some of his great predecessors. The slight plumpness of the girl might indicate that she is pregnant. She stands apart from all the other bathers located in the middle distance in the pool. Her facial type and rather soulful expression hark back to prototypes made popular by Corot (1796-1875) in the 1840s and he may also have been aware of works by Jean-Fréderic Bazille (1841-1870). What is more than certain is that there is the clear influence of Gustave Courbet (1819-1877) and of course of his older contemporary, Paul Cezanne (1839-1906). The 1890s marked Cezanne’s greatest period of production including a series of Bathers. Bernard was immediately attracted to the subject of the Bathers, producing several small scale sketched copies or derivations from Cezanne’s works in the early 1890s. More than a hint of this appears in the bathing figures in the background of this Bernard composition of Bathers whose sketchier style would seem to indicate that it stems less from his Nabi period than relating more closely, perhaps, to the mid to late ‘90s or, as suggested by Bernard’s son, to 1904.

(An attestation on the back of the unlined canvas states in French ‘’I certify that this nude was painted by my father, the painter, Emile Bernard, in 1904 and comes from his atelier at the Quai de Bourbon in Paris’, signed by his son ‘Michel Ange Bernard’’).

This composition of The Bather therefore represents an important transitory work in the artist’’s career before he reaffirmed a more traditional and static late style, and perhaps was intended as a homage to his celebrated predecessors.

129 x 80 cm
Oil on canvas

The Estate of the artist;
Private Collection, Bar le Duc.

Where is It?
Acquired from Matthiesen Gallery
Historical Period
Realism to Impressionism - 1840-1900
Genre or Daily Life
Price band
$50,000 - $100,000