David Bomberg

Study for ‘The Mud Bath’


Not on display

David Bomberg 1890–1957
Watercolour and graphite on paper
Support: 286 × 349 mm
Purchased 1975

Catalogue entry

T01963 Study for 'The Mud Bath'

Not inscribed

Recto: Watercolour wash and charcoal; verso: charcoal, 11 3/16 x l3 ¾ (28.4X34.9) Purchased from Mrs Lilian Bomberg (Grant-in-Aid) 1975

Lit: William Lipke, David Romberg, a critical study of his life and work, Lon- don 1967, pp.37-45; Richard Cork, catalogue of exhibition Vorticism and its Allies, Hayward Gallery, 1974, pp.87, 88; Richard Cork, Vorticism and Abstract Art in the First Machine Age: Volume 1 'Origins and Development', London 1975, pp.203-l3

There are several known studies for 'The Mud Bath' 1914 (T00656) of which, from its loose handling, large forms and lack of detail, this appears to be the earliest. A previous painting by Bomberg, 'Bathing Scene' 1912-13 (T01055) has been suggested as a possible source for the subject (Tate Gallery 1968-9, pp.5-6).

Richard Cork (op.cit, pp.204-l5) discusses and illustrates the studies (excluding T01963, unknown to him at the time) in the following sequence:

'Gouache study for "The Mud Bath" I (recto) 2lx28 (Mr I. Baum); Conte study for "The Mud Bath" (verso); Study for "The Mud Bath" (crayon, squared up in red) 19 1/8 X27 (Israel Museum); crayon study for "The Mud Bath" (verso) l7 ¾ x26 ¾ (private collection); Gouache study for "The Mud Bath" II (recto).'

There are no known naturalistic studies for 'The Mud Bath' comparable to those that precede 'In the Hold' (T .913), e.g. T .914.

On the verso of T01963 the composition has been traced through and is therefore reversed. Of the above studies the first gouache and the crayon (verso of second gouache) are also reversed. Bomberg does not appear to have worked on the verso of T01963 more than to facilitate tracing either onto the recto or another sheet.

The colours and their relationship in T01963 have no connection with the first gouache study, except in as far as neither display a unified ground on either side of the 'column' around which the figures are disposed. Moreover there is almost no indication in the wash study of the developing rectangular structure of the bath.

Apart from 'Bathing Scene' there is another reference to a possible preliminary study for 'The Mud Bath'. This was made by T. E. Hulme in 'Modern Art IV-Mr David Romberg's Show' (The New Age, 9 July 1914, pp.230-2). While reviewing Romberg's first one-man exhibition at the Chenil Gallery in July 1914, in which 'The Mud Bath' was exhibited (1) Hulme states that it and the now lost 'Reading from Torah' (5) both derived from the same source: 'Drawing for a pain- ting' (23). The latter has not been definitely identified but Richard Cork believes it to be the 'Composition: Study for Reading Torah'(?) (recto) c.1914 (Richard Cork, op.cit, p.213, repr.). If this is correct then it explains the apparent lack of naturalistic studies preceding T01963.

Other works in the Chenil Gallery exhibition which can be related to the pain- ting by their titles are 'Study for the Mud Bath' (1) and 'Mud Bathers' (15). Neither has been identified.

A further drawing, until recently known as 'Acrobats' and illustrated by Cork (op.cit, p.196 as 'Study for "In the Hold" '(?) private collection) shows a detail of the area of 'The Mud Bath' to the right of 'The Column'. It is difficult to deter- mine the status of this drawing as a study or independent work, but it comes closest to the Israel Museum's squared-up crayon study in its detailing.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1974-6: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1978

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