Set in an indeterminate, timeless natural landscape, this nude bather comes out of the water gently drawing white drapery across her chest. Her loose golden hair echoes the imperceptible movement of the vegetation in the background, making the entire scene shimmer and undulate. The soft roundness of her face also seems to harmonise perfectly with the flesh and curves of her body.
Mallarmé wrote about Renoir’s painting:
"…………paints Monsieur Renoir,
Who, in front of a shoulder that's nude,
Feels something other than blue."
These lines highlight the sensuality that was typical of this mature period of the painter’s career, known as his “pearly period” because of the vibrant, luminous skin tones he produced at this time. Here, Renoir transposes a nude model into a timeless earthly paradise. There are other Bathers that resemble the version in the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris. The 1895 Bather in the Philadelphia Barnes Foundation is almost identical except for the framing, offering a more extensive view of the clothes on the riverbank, and the hair covering some of her facial features. A few years later, when Renoir was experimenting with sculpture, he once again picked up, this time in three-dimensional form, the same movement of the bather drawing the drapery towards her. Before being acquired by Paul Guillaume, this work was owned by the famous art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel (1831-1922).
Provenance: Durand-Ruel (purchase to Renoir the 18 november 1896); O. Schmitz (purchase the 17 november 1911); Paul Guillaume (?); Domenica Walter