Alfred Boucher created some of the most delicate and alluring nudes of the late 19th Century, and was famed for his ability to ‘célébrer avec amour le corps féminin’ (Lucien Morel-Payen, La Tribune de l’Aube, 1933). Although he also cast his models in bronze, Boucher’s skill is epitomised in his marbles, where he manipulates the stone into the smooth and glistening surfaces of skin, often setting it against the contrast of hard rocks. In his Baigneuse the pale form of the nude is further distinguished from the rough background by a subtle colouration of the marble.
Alfred Boucher came from a modest family in Nogent-sur-Seine, the son of a gardener and a housekeeper. His parents worked for the sculptor Marius Ramus (1805-1888) and it was in Ramu’s studio that Boucher made his first models as a boy. Ramu introduced the prodigy to the sculptor Paul Dubois, another native of Nogent-sur-Seine. The introduction led to a bursary to study in Paris under Dubois and Dumont. Dubois also encouraged Boucher to travel to Italy where he discovered the antique sculptures which were to have a lasting influence on his work.
The present model is a variation on an earlier model, L’Hirondelle Blessée, which Boucher exhibited at the Salon of 1898 to great acclaim. These variations appear throughout Boucher’s oeuvre – he also produced L’Hirondelle as a relief within a landscape. The allegorical and mythological titles given to Boucher’s nudes are often superfluous and easily surpassed by the pure rendering of form. L’Hirondelle has simply lost her wings and rests on the riverbank to bathe.
Alfred Boucher, pp. 8-12 & 52-53
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