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Summer Scene

Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University


Tamar Garb comments on Bazille’s decision to clothe the male bathers in Summer Scene:

“A strange tension is set up between the signs of modernity as encoded in figure types, bathing trunks and contemporary setting, and the tradition of the male nude which required  a more heroic and distant context to sustain its lofty associations. The demands of naturalism necessitated a contemporary setting for the depiction of the nude and whereas this was no problem for the elaboration of a new naturalist iconography of femininity, it was not so easily pulled off within the genre of the male nude. The ideological construction of woman as embedded in nature, fecund, and fulfilled in her natural paradise, lent a certain authenticity to the countless images of women frolicking about in the countryside which crowded the Salons of the early Third Republic. Women’s femininity was affirmed by their natural surroundings. By contrast, images of unclothed contemporary men stripped of the uniform of masculinity which inscribed them within the realm of culture, made them seem rather vulnerable and decidedly unheroic. Whilst the nakedness of modern women could appear natural, subsuming them into the mythic category of femininity for which they became a sign, that of men seemed odd, embarrassing, strangely anachronisitic.”

Tamar, Garb, “Visuality and Sexuality in Cézanne’s Late Bathers,” Oxford Art Journal, vol. 19, no. 2 (1996): 53.

Similar Subjects by Other Artists:

Ernst Josephson, Water Sprite, 1884

Thomas Eakins, The Swimming Hole, 1884-85 (Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth)

Paul Gauguin, Bathing Breton Boys, 1888 (Kunsthalle, Hamburg)

Paul Cézanne, Male Bathers, c. 1890 (Musée d’Orsay, Paris)

Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, Summer, 1891 (Cleveland Museum of Art)

Max Liebermann, Bathing Boys, 1898  

About the Artist

Born: Montpellier, 6 December 1841
Died: Beaune-la-Rolande, 28 November 1870
Nationality: French