The Bathers (Courbet)  

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“It is not so much a woman as a tree-trunk of flesh, a body covered with bark” --Edmond About, via [...], originally published in Nos artistes au salon de 1857.

'On the eve of the Salon of 1853, Courbet declared his intention "to do nothing but nudes for the next Exhibition." The Bathers, one of two works in this genre that he exhibited, defied the current preference for timeless, idealized nudity. Eugène Delacroix, a member of the Salon jury, deplored the "vulgarity of the forms" in Courbet's painting, which occasioned a critical uproar. Defending the realism of Courbet's nudes, the critic Jules-Antoine Castagnary countered, "He painted the real, living French woman."' --The Modern Nude

Related e



Les Baigneuses[1] (ca. 1853, English: The Bathers) is a painting by Courbet, in the collection of the musée Fabre in Montpellier. The work garnered controversy when shown at the Paris Salon of 1853. It supposedly so shocked Napoleon III that he struck the painting with his riding-crop. Théophile Gautier referred to the nude woman in Courbet's painting as 'a Hottentot Venus' and a bourgeoise Callipyge (La Presse, 1853).

The painting is generally held related to this[2] photograph of model Henriette Bonnion by Julien Vallou de Villeneuve. Alfred Bruyas was its first buyer.


The elephantine proportions of the nude Bather so shocked Napoleon III that he struck the picture with his riding-crop. When Courbet, who detested the imperial regime, heard of the incident he is said to have commented: "If I had only foreseen this spanking I should have used a thin canvas; he would have torn a hole in it, and we should have had a splendid lawsuit." --Gustave Courbet (Gerstle Mack).
"The model for the standing bather[3], has been identified as Henriette Bonnion, who, according to a nineteenth-century source, posed "in naturabilis " in Courbet's Paris studio in the winter of 1853. Bonnion also modeled for the photographer Julien Vallou de Villeneuve, assuming a nearly identical pose in a photograph of the same date. It is not known if the photograph was made before Courbet's painting." --[4]
On Courbet's use of Vallou de Villeneuve's photographs, see Aaron Scharf (1974), Art and Photography.
The well-known comparison between Courbet's Bather and a percheron allegedly made by the Empress Eugenie was reiterated by Nadar who called the Baigneuse 'une espece Percheronne' in his Jury au Salon de 1853
C'est comme une espèce percheronne, et je n'y vois rien à dire. Si maintenant, ceux que La Baigneuse de Courbet irrite à ce point de vue acceptent, sans y faire attention, les natures de Rubens en leurs chairs bourreletées, ..--Jury au Salon de 1853

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