Artworks
The Bather

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Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres’ The Bather is about as anatomically correct as his Grande Odalisque, which is to say, not at all.

The poet James Fenton put it best, “Ingres loved nudes but hated anatomy.” It’s just something we have to accept about him as an artist and move on. This painting was originally titled Seated Woman but took on the name, The Valpinçon Bather after one of its owners in the 19th century. It was made during Ingres’ time the the French Academy in Rome after winning the Prix de Rome in 1801. He was required to submit three paintings for adjudication and the judges were not stoked on it. The subject matter was out of the ordinary and that was not the vibe of the early 19th century. You played inside the lines and that was that. This piece didn’t get famous until much, much later at the Universal Exhibition in 1855. Critics wrote of the piece that, "Rembrandt himself would have envied the amber color of this pale torso.” Then all of a sudden people flocked to Ingres like he was a genius, meanwhile Ingres was shaking his head wondering where these dummies were before.

Even before he started getting famous for this type of "deep voluptuousness" of nude female bather as Baudelaire put it, Ingres committed to perfecting it. He used this same image in the forefront of The Turkish Bath. He modeled his artistic career after Poussin, who was known for repeating subjects over and over again until he could do it in his sleep. And when the male gaze is alive and uncontested, why not paint naked ladies every day? But just because this woman is nude, doesn’t mean that she is asking anyone to come and get it. She is somehow still chaste in her birthday suit; like some unattainable Greek goddess and is going to stay that way.

Sources

Sources

  1. Kimmelman, Michael. "The Peculiar Realism Of Ingres." Nytimes.com. N.p., 2006. Web. 1 Nov. 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/31/arts/the-peculiar-realism-of-ingres.html
  2. "The Bather, Known As The Valpinçon Bather | Louvre Museum | Paris." Louvre.fr. N.p., 2018. Web. 1 Nov. 2018. https://www.louvre.fr/en/oeuvre-notices/bather-known-valpincon-bather
  3. "The Valpincon Bather, J.A.D. Ingres: Analysis." Visual-arts-cork.com. N.p., 2018. Web. 1 Nov. 2018. http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/paintings-analysis/valpincon-bather.htm

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Here is what Wikipedia says about The Valpinçon Bather

The Valpinçon Bather (Fr: La Grande Baigneuse) is an 1808 painting by the French Neoclassical artist Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres (1780–1867), held in the Louvre since 1879. Painted while the artist was studying at the French Academy in Rome, it was originally titled Seated Woman but later became known after one of its nineteenth-century owners.

Although the painting was not met with favour by critics when first exhibited, almost fifty years later, when the artist's reputation was well established, the Goncourt brothers wrote that "Rembrandt himself would have envied the amber color of this pale torso", while the Louvre described it as "a masterpiece of harmonious lines and delicate light".

Ingres had earlier painted female nudes, such as his Bathing Woman of 1807, yet this work is widely regarded as his first great treatment of the subject. As with the previous smaller work, the model is shown from behind, however The Valpinçon Bather lacks the earlier painting's overt sexuality, instead depicting a calm and measured sensuality.

Charles Baudelaire (1821–1867) described the model as having a "deep voluptuousness", yet in many ways she is presented as essentially chaste. This contradiction is apparent in many elements of the painting. The turn of her neck and the curves of her back and legs are accentuated by the fall of the metallic green draperies, the swell of the white curtain in front of her and the folds of the bed sheets and linen. However, these elements are countered by the cool tone in which her flesh is rendered as well as by elements such as the elegant black-veined marble to the left of her.

Remarking on Ingres' ability to paint the human body in a unique manner, the art critic Robert Rosenblum wrote that "the ultimate effect of [The Valpinçon Bather] is of a magical suspension of time and movement—even of the laws of gravity ... the figure seems to float weightlessly upon the enamel smoothness of the surface, exerting only the most delicate pressure, and the gravitational expectations of the heaviest earthbound forms are surprisingly controverted."

Ingres returned to the form of this figure a number of times in his life; culminating in his The Turkish Bath of 1863, where the central figure in the foreground playing a mandolin echoes in rhythm and tone the model of the Valpinçon bather.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about The Valpinçon Bather.