David Bomberg 1890–1957
T01055 BATHING SCENE c. 1912–13
Oil on drawing panel, 22×27 (56×68·5).
Purchased from Mrs Lilian Bomberg (Grant-in-Aid) 1968.
Exh: Marlborough Fine Art Ltd., March 1964 (3, repr., before restoration) as ‘Study for “The Mud Bath’”; Tate Gallery, March–April 1967 (4, repr. as above) and tour, as ‘Study for “The Mud Bath’”.
Repr: John Gross, ‘The Bomberg Approach’, in Sunday Times Colour Magazine, 22 March 1964, p. 33 (in colour, before restoration).
Bomberg's one-man exhibition at the Chenil Gallery in 1914 included works entitled ‘Study for mud bath’ (11) and ‘Mud bathers’ (15), but it is not possible to say whether the present work was one of these. A study for ‘The Mud Bath’ (T00656) sufficiently literal to be immediately identifiable as relating to it directly was sold at Sotheby's, 17 July 1968 (112, repr., bt. d'Offay). The present work by contrast depicts figures gesturing agitatedly (as in ‘Vision of Ezekiel’ 1912), and painted with softer contours and a less pronounced geometricity. In common, however, with ‘Primeval Decoration’, ‘Vision of Ezekiel’ and ‘The Mud Bath’ the disposition of figures in and around a well-defined rectangular space recalls the pool of Schevzik's Baths in Whitechapel with which Bomberg is known to have been concerned in his work of this period. Bomberg's brother-in-law Mr James Newmark wrote (17 December 1968): ‘I remember being taken around 1910 to Schevzik's Baths by my father... The baths were constructed with a row of separate bathrooms and a small pool at the end. This had steps leading down into the tepid water. The pool was used communally. Men and women used it on different days of the week. It is my recollection that the pool was very small (perhaps 10 ft. square)’.
The Borough Librarian of the London Borough of Tower Hamlets wrote (19 June 1969) that at Schevzik's: ‘There was no mud bath. Two residents in this area, aged 65 and 84, remember the Baths very well, and have confirmed this... The apparent beating or flagellation seen [in T01055] was carried out in the Vapour Bath to increase circulation of the blood, the skin being flicked with stout leaves, twigs and something resembling a loofah. There was no religious significance attached to it.’
The reverse of T01055, bearing flecks of paint and drawing pin holes in profusion, indicates its extensive use as a drawing board but shows, however, no hint of any design.
The Tate Gallery: Acquisitions 1968-9, London 1969