The present picture epitomizes 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 Antiquity, becomes the result of a pictorial process of construction, increasingly integrated into the picture's context.
While 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.
The 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 (see fig. 1). The standing nude appears in several important paintings from this series, and the pose of the twisted body clearly held a fascination for the artist (see fig. 2). The vivid blue coloration and dynamism of its execution distinguish this work from other related studies.
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