Blonde Bather (1881) Pierre-Auguste Renoir Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Bathers are a key element to Renoir's ouevure and this memorable iteration in that was titled Blonde Bather, from 1881.

The artist would slowly push away from the style of the Impressionist movement from this period onwards, leading to both praise and criticism for his new approach. Some deemed it to traditional, whilst others preferred it to the controversial achievements of the Impressionists. This voluptuous model is perfectly in keeping with Renoir's desire to capture the true form of the female body, rather than the slim, almost skinny alternative which had dominated most of art history. Some appreciated this, whilst others rejected his models as vulgar. Whilst the present day is much more accepting of different body shapes, it was certainly not the case during the mid to late 19th century. His own views on women have also been put under focus in recent years, but one should not forget his role in encouraging the use of different types of female models.

This charming scene captures a beautiful young woman peering off to the left of the screen. Her sensitivities are protected by her own angled body, whilst a small cloth is on hand for the same purpose, if necessary. She looks deep in thought, perhaps calmed by the surrounding environment. Renoir provides a blurred background that adds so much, but without taking away the focus from his muse. She is known to have been used on several occasions for different artworks and in some cases her hair would be a slightly different tone. It is possible that the external elements such as the bright light on the day had caused this blonde appearance as opposed to her image in other artworks. Some, for example, give a redder tint to her hair instead.

Tones of yellow, green, blue and white are used to construct the natural elements, and this continued in his career for many decades. It makes this period easily recognisable as his own, even from afar. One can visit the Barnes Collection in the US to see a visual example of this, where paintings are placed together, almost at random, but one can immediately see the clear consistency in tone. His scantily-clad models, normally bathing, also persists throughout many of these paintings. Renoir was an extraordinaryly skillful portrait painter, who took in the whole body and would consistently re-work elements in order to get the different elements of a pose just right. Other examples from his career feature multiple figures engaged in fun and frolics by the river side, such as in his famous Large Bathers piece. Many more examples of these figurative paintings can be found elsewhere in this website.