The influence of Cézanne on Moore’s work is particularly apparent in the present sculpture (see fig. 1). Reflecting on his lifelong passion for Cézanne’s work and its importance to him, Moore wrote with particular reference to Les Grandes baigneuses: “Cézanne’s figures had a monumentality about them that I liked. In his Bathers, the figures were very sculptural in the sense of being big blocks and not a lot of surface detail about them. They are indeed monumental but this doesn’t mean fat. It is difficult to explain this difference but you can recognize a kind of strength. This is a quality which you see only if you are sensitive to it. It’s to do with the full realization of the three-dimensional form; color change comes into that too, but not so importantly as human perspective. Bathers is an emotional painting but not in a sentimental way. Cézanne had an enormous influence on everyone in that period, there was a change in attitudes to art. People found him disturbing because they didn’t like their existing ideas being challenged and overturned. Cézanne was probably the key figure in my lifetime” (quoted in Alan Wilkinson, ed., Henry Moore, Writings and Conversations, Lund Humphries, 2002, pp. 150–51).
In 1959, a year before the conception of the present work, Moore managed to acquire for himself one of Cézanne’s paintings of bathers, later declaring, "It's the only picture I ever wanted to own. It's...the joy of my life. I saw it [in 1959] in an exhibition and was stunned by it. I didn't sleep for two or three nights trying to decide whether to [buy it]...To me it's marvelous. Monumental." (quoted in Monitor, first broadcast in 1960).
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