Get Ready for Beach Season With These Artists’ Takes on Bathers, From Paul Cézanne to Eric Fischl, in a New Show in London

London gallery Saatchi Yates has organized the exhibition “Bathers,” on view through August 10.

Eric Fischl, She and Her (2017). Photo: courtesy of Saatchi Yates.

As an “ode to the ultimate summer muse,” London gallery Saatchi Yates has organized the exhibition “Bathers,” on view through August 10.

Artists have depicted this subject since Classical antiquity, showing mythical scenes like that of the hunter Actaeon stumbling on the goddess Diana bathing in the woods, from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, and Venus emerging from her birthplace in the sea.

Explicitly exploring the more erotic dimensions of the subject, artists have depicted the scene of Susanna and the Elders, in which two old men spy on a young woman at her bath. The subject continues right up to the Cubist treatment of the figure by Picasso, who frequently depicted women at the beach, and contemporary images that address inclusion of the types of figures who have not appeared in traditional Western art. 

An installation view of “Bathers.” Photo: courtesy of Saatchi Yates.

In the Saatchi Yates exhibition, historical artists from Paul Cézanne to Pablo Picasso and J.M.W. Turner treat the subject, as well as younger figures like Peter Doig, Eric Fischl, Sujin Lee, and Henry Taylor.

“Bathers in painting are both varied and fundamental to the human condition,” says the art critic Martin Gayford, who wrote an essay for the catalogue. “The combination of unclothed bodies and water can evoke guilt-free primordial innocence: a sin-free Eden. On the other hand, the same visual ingredients can suggest the consequences of Eve and Adam’s Fall: guilt, lust, death.”

“In either case, the subject combines in one neat package two of the major preoccupations of artists for many centuries—landscape and the nude,” Gayford continues. “It is no surprise that bathers have preoccupied painters for so long, and it is likely that the combination of water and human bodies will continue to intrigue them far into the future.”

Below, see some highlights of the show.

Denijs Van Alsloot, A Forest Landscape, with Diana Discovering Callisto’s Pregnancy, and a View of the Priory of Groenendael (1614). Photo: courtesy of Saatchi Yates.

David Hockney, The Swimming Lesson (1965). Photo: courtesy of Saatchi Yates.

Angela Santana, The Bathers (2023). Photo: courtesy of Saatchi Yates.

An installation view of “Bathers.” Photo: courtesy of Saatchi Yates.

Sujin Lee, Night Swimming (2023). Photo: courtesy of Saatchi Yates.

Joseph Werner the Younger, A Bacchanal (ca. 1662–1667). Photo: courtesy of Saatchi Yates.

Peter Doig, The Bather (2017). Photo: courtesy of Saatchi Yates.


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