The Great Bathers
Pierre-Auguste Renoir, French, 1841 - 1919
Although this painting depicts a fleeting moment when one bather playfully threatens to splash a companion, it has a timeless, monumental quality. The sculptural rendering of the figures against a shimmering landscape and the careful application of dry paint reflect the tradition of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century French painting. Renoir--in an attempt to reconcile this tradition with modern painting--labored over this work for three years, making numerous preparatory drawings for individual figures and at least two full-scale, multifigure drawings. Faced with criticism of his new style after completing The Large Bathers, an exhausted Renoir never again devoted such painstaking effort to a single work.