Pierre Bonnard

The Bath

1925

Original title
Baignoire (Le Bain)
Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 860 x 1206 mm
frame: 1079 x 1438 x 116 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by Lord Ivor Spencer Churchill through the Contemporary Art Society 1930
Reference
N04495

Display caption

This is one of a series of paintings that Bonnard made of his wife Marthe in the bath. Though she was in her mid-fifties, the artist depicts her as a young woman. Marthe spent many hours in the bathroom: she may have had tuberculosis, for which water therapy was a popular treatment, or she may have had an obsessive neurosis. The bath, cut off at both ends, and the structure of the wall create a rigorously geometric composition. The effect is strangely lifeless, and almost tomb-like; as if the painting were a silent expression of sorrow for Marthe's plight.

Gallery label, August 2004

Catalogue entry

Pierre Bonnard 1867-1947

N04495 Baignoire or Le Bain (The Bath) 1925

Not inscribed
Oil on canvas, 33 7/8 x 47 1/2 (86 x 120.5) approximately; the painted area is not a perfect rectangle
Presented by Lord Ivor Spencer Churchill through the CAS 1930

Prov: With Bernheim-Jeune, Paris (purchased from the artist, 7 December 1925); Lord Ivor Spencer Churchill, London, 1927

Exh: Salon d'Automne, Paris, September-November 1925 (140) as 'Baignoire'; The CAS: Second Loan Exhibition of Foreign Paintings, M. Knoedler, London, February 1928 (52); Acquisitions of the CAS, Tate Gallery, September-October 1946 (7); Paintings by Pierre Bonnard and Edouard Vuillard, RSA, Edinburgh, August-September 1948 (27, repr.); Bonnard, Roland, Browse and Delbanco, London, June 1950 (5, repr.); Pierre Bonnard, RA, London, January-March 1966 (177, repr.)
Lit: Jean and Henry Dauberville, Bonnard (Paris 1973), No.1334, Vol.3, p.271, repr.
Repr: L'Amour de l'Art, VI, 1925, p.357; André Fermigier, Pierre Bonnard (London 1970), p.127 in colour

Bonnard painted a number of pictures of women bathing, the later examples becoming increasingly richer and more elaborate in colour. The woman in this picture is probably Marthe Bonnard.

As he habitually worked with his canvases pinned to the wall instead of mounted on a stretcher, it sometimes happened, as in this case, that the painted area was not a perfect rectangle.

Published in:
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, pp.67-8, reproduced p.67