Emilio Greco

Large Bather I

1956

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Original title
La grande bagnante no. 1
Medium
Bronze
Dimensions
Object: 2134 x 514 x 724 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by Count Manassei 1958
Reference
T00198

Display caption

Greco was an Italian sculptor who specialised in female nudes and portrait busts. He had his first solo exhibition in Rome in 1946, and was awarded the sculpture prize at the 1956 Venice Biennale at which 'Large Bather I' was on exhibition. The artist regarded this sculpture as one of his most important works, and the model for it was Anna Padovan, who later became his second wife. Greco has since made another six large female bathers, all with different poses. It was his original intention to make twelve large figures of bathers and set them at intervals around a pond or swimming pool.

Gallery label, August 2004

Catalogue entry

Emilio Greco born 1913 [- 1995]

T00198 Large Bather I 1956

Inscribed 'EMILIO GRECO 1956' on base
Bronze, 84 x 20 1/4 x 28 1/2 (213 x 51.5 x 72.5)
Presented by Count Manassei 1958
Prov: Count Manassei, Cranbrook (purchased from the artist)
Lit: J.P. Hodin, 'Emilio Greco, en Italiensk Skulptør' in Kunst og Kultur, XLI, 1958, p.114, repr. p.113; Bernhard Degenhart, Emilio Greco (Berlin-Mainz 1960), pp.9-10, repr. pls.58-61; Fortunato Bellonzi, Emilio Greco (Rome 1962), pp.18-21, repr. pls.31-7; J.P. Hodin, Emilio Greco: Sculpture and Drawings (Bath 1971), pp.26, 30-1, 54, repr. pls.29-33

'Large Bather I', which Greco regards as one of his most important works, was modelled from Anna Padovan, who later became his second wife. The first bronze cast was exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 1956, where it won the City of Venice Prize and was purchased by the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna in Rome. The present cast is the second. The third is now in the Middelheim open-air sculpture park at Antwerp, while the fourth and final cast belongs to the Shirokiya Foundation in Tokyo. There was also a maquette and three drawings (see the note on A01080-1).

Greco has since made another six large female bathers, as well as maquettes for at least three more which have never been carried out on this scale. The later versions, which were all apparently done from the same model, tend to be more contorted in pose and with more suggestion of movement:

'Large Bather II' 1956-7 has both hands on the left hip, the left leg forward and the torso and head turned to the left;

'Large Bather III' 1957 has the hands on the hips, the left leg forward and across the body, and the torso leaning forward and twisted to the left;

'Large Bather IV' 1959 has the hands on the hips, the left leg forward and the torso turned so that the right shoulder points almost to the front;

'Large Bather V' 1961 has the left arm raised and outstretched and the torso turned somewhat to the left;

'Large Bather VI' 1962-4 has the left leg forward and both arms raised above the head, the right arm grasping the left;

'Large Bather VII' 1968 has the left leg forward and both arms raised above the head, the right arm touching the left and holding the hair, and the head turned to the left.

Greco said of these to J.P. Hodin (1971, p.30): 'The other large Bagnantes are like dancers, demonstrating the harmony of movement, mood and spirit. This is the goal! There is no development in the figures themselves, the lines are the same as before, but the idea is to produce a multiplicity of movements and, seen from the sculptural point of view, to achieve the ideal of body architecture: Like the vaults of a bridge - limbs and body are composed.'

It was his original intention to make as many as twelve figures on this scale, and he told the compiler in 1958 that he hoped it might be possible some day for the bathers, being variations on a single theme, to be assembled around a pond or swimming pool.

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.337-8, reproduced p.337


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