The Bathers (1897; Punaauia, French Polynesia) by Paul Gauguin

The Bathers - Paul Gauguin - 1897; Punaauia, French Polynesia

Artwork Information

TitleThe Bathers
ArtistPaul Gauguin
Date1897; Punaauia, French Polynesia
Dimensions60.4 x 93.4 cm
Art MovementCloisonnism

About The Bathers

“The Bathers” is an oil on canvas artwork by Paul Gauguin, completed in 1897 whilst he was in Punaauia, French Polynesia. The painting is a quintessential example of the Cloisonnism art movement, which is characterized by bold and flat forms separated by dark contours. Measuring 60.4 by 93.4 centimeters, this genre painting portrays a scene of bathers and is distinguished by its vivid use of color and stylized depiction of the figures.

The artwork presents a tropical landscape suffused with a vibrant, predominantly red and orange palette that evokes the warmth of the setting. There are several figures within the scene, some rendered with detail, while others are more abstracted. The figures appear to engage in various activities associated with bathing and leisure, in a natural and lush environment.

The composition features bathers in different states of dress, with some standing and others crouched or seated, possibly resting or performing daily rituals. One figure stands out prominently on the right, depicted nude and in a vertical stance, which provides a strong visual counterpoint to the horizontal and seated figures throughout.

Foreground details like a reclining figure and scattered items on the ground suggest a casual, yet intimate and serene moment. The artwork’s flat planes of color and outlined forms are distinctive of Gauguin’s style during this period, which often sought to capture the essence of the subjects and the spirituality he perceived in the life of indigenous peoples, rather than adhere to the realistic portrayal of the European tradition.

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