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By cropping the figures in his paintings and arranging compositions with the main incidents occurring at the edges of the canvas, Bonnard increases a sense of intimacy while also creating an atmosphere of surreptitious looking. This view of an upside-down bather seen from above is one of his most unusual and innovative compositions. The nude is identifiable as Marthe (Maria Boursin), the painter’s companion, and the second figure entering from the left as Bonnard himself. Marthe’s habit of treating her chronic throat infection with frequent baths was a recurring subject in Bonnard’s work.

December 2011