Paul Cézanne

In the 1870s, Cézanne took up the subject of bathers, an interest that persisted until the end of his career. The artist did not use live models. His impetus was more conceptual than naturalistic, and he approached figure study above all as an exercise in formal composition. This drawing comes from a group of studies and paintings that feature a single male bather with one arm rigidly outstretched. The figure’s unconventional pose was inspired by an ancient Roman sculpture of a dancing satyr in the Louvre. Cézanne’s staccato lines, while seemingly quick and spontaneous, were in fact applied carefully and methodically as he slowly explored his subject, endowing his bather with a monumentality that belies the drawing’s modest dimensions.

Paul Cézanne
French, 1839–1906
Bather with Outstretched Arms, 1874–77
Graphite on pieced paper
The Art Institute of Chicago, gift of Richard and Mary L. Gray; 2019.840
Gray Collection Trust, Art Institute of Chicago
Photography by Jamie Stukenberg, Professional Graphics Inc.