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«Boundaries in Modern Representations of Bathers: An Assault on Male Sexual Pleasure Christophe Viret Water, the origin of life on earth, is the most ...»

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The questionable gender identities of the figures can, in part, be attributed to Derain’s interest in African art. Derain was introduced to African sculptures by fellow artist Vlaminck sometime around 1905, before he created Baigneuses I.13 Once, “Vlaminck showed an African 10 Christophe Viret sculpture to Derain, remarking that it was ‘almost as beautiful’ as the Venus de Milo. Derain then supposedly replied that it was ‘as beautiful’ as the Venus.”14 Derain was also a member of an artistic movement, the Fauve movement, which wanted its art to capture the primal energies of, and be akin to, “the art of wild beasts.” The angularity of the forms that comprise the middle body, in particular, can be attributed to the influence of one ‘primal’ mask found in the Congo, in which “the head is a spherical or block-like shape, and the features are merely indentations or concave planes.”15 However, Derain blended European and African art to create an acceptable style through which to explore taboo topics such as gender identity. One of the primary differences between “primal” art and “European” art, according to the members of the Fauve movement, was that primal art was “largely composed of single figures,” and “implied removal from space, time, and—perhaps most crucially—gravity.”16 While vestigial references to the natural environment of the forest and the riverside remain in Baigneuses I, the forms are heavily outlined and depicted using warm orange tones that are complementary to the cool greens and blues of the background. The figures are greatly distanced from their background, seeming to exist in a world of their own, confined to the realm of the canvas. Confinement of the blurred boundary between genders was imperative for Derain to maintain his credibility as an artist, for such topics were very taboo at his time; American art collector, writer, and thinker Gertrude Stein, one of many critics of Baigneuses I, characterized it as “a strange picture” that represented “a sort of man or woman” whose exact gender was unknown.17 Clearly, while Derain did incorporate the beauty of African art into Baigneuses I, the painting was mainly an exploration of gender as a whole. Derain purposefully depicted his figures in a natural environment and entitled his painting “Baigneuses I” as a reference to past portrayals of feminine beauty and allure. Yet, Derain’s depiction of bathers is worlds away from Fragonard’s concept of delicate feminine beauty. While Derain blurs the boundary between male and female in his artwork, by depicting nude male bathers, he also brings the assumption of an unquestionably male, heterosexual viewer, the tenet for all artwork up until his day, into question.


1. Thomas Jefferson, The Declaration of Independence, 1776.

2. Rémy G. Saisselin, “The Rococo as a Dream of Happiness,” The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Vol. 19, no. 2 (1960): 146.

3. Ibid, 148.

4. Whitney Chadwick, Women, Art, and Society, (London: Thames and Hudson Ltd., 1996), 235.

5. Ibid.

6. Kay Chubbuck and Kati Lovász, “The Tub, 1886,” Impressionism and the Making of Modern Art, http://blogs.princeton.edu/ modernart/ (accessed November 28, 2010).

7. Jean Southerland Boggs, Portraits by Degas, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1962), 60.

8. Robert Rosenblum and H. W. Janson, 19th Century Art, (New York:

Harry N. Abrams Inc., 1984), 393.

9. Mary Louise Krumrine, “Cézanne’s ‘Restricted Power’: Further Reflections on the ‘Bathers,’” The Burlington Magazine Publications, Ltd. Vol. 134, no. 1074 (1992): 588.

10. Tamar Garb, “Visuality and Sexuality in Cézanne’s Late Bathers,” Oxford Art Journal, Vol. 19, no. 2 (1996): 52.

11. Krumrine, “Cézanne’s ‘Restricted Power,’” 588.

12. Tamar Garb, “Visuality and Sexuality in Cézanne’s Late Bathers,” Oxford Art Journal, Vol. 19, no. 2 (1996): 46.

12 Christophe Viret

13. Jack D. Flam, “Matisse and the Fauves,” in Primitivism in 20th Century Art, edited by William Rubin (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2002), 211.

14. Ibid, 214.

15. Susan L. Ball, “The Early Figurative Works of Derain, 1905-1910:

A Re-Evaluation,” Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte 43 Bd., H. 1 (1980):


16. Flam, “Matisse and the Fauves,” 211.

17. Ball, “The Early Figurative Works of Derain” 86.

Bibliography “André Derain (1880 – 1954).” March 18, 2010. Worldwide Art Resources. http://wwar.com/ (accessed December 2, 2010).

“André Derain.” November 7, 2010. Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.

org/ (accessed November 23, 2010).

Axtell, James L. “Locke, Newton, and ‘The Elements of Natural Philosophy.’” Paedagogica Europaea Vol. 1 (1965): 235-245.

“Bathers (Les Grandes Baigneuses).” 2010. The National Gallery.

http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/ (accessed November 30, 2010).

“Bathers.” 2010. The Museum of Modern Art. http://www.moma.

org/ (accessed November 30, 2010).

Ball, Susan L. “The Early Figurative Works of Derain, 1905-1910:

A Re-Evaluation.” Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte 43 Bd., H. 1 (1980):

79 – 96.

–  –  –

Canaday, John. Mainstreams of Modern Art. Australia: Wadsworth Thomson Learning, 1987.

Chadwick, Whitney. Women, Art, and Society. London: Thames and Hudson Ltd., 1996.

Chubbuck, Kay and Kati Lovász. “The Tub, 1886.” Impressionism and the Making of Modern Art. http://blogs.princeton.edu/modernart/ (accessed November 28, 2010).

Flam, Jack D. “Matisse and the Fauves.” In Primitivism in 20th

Century Art, edited by William Rubin, 210-221. New York:

Museum of Modern Art, 2002.

Garb, Tamar. “Visuality and Sexuality in Cézanne’s Late Bathers.” Oxford Art Journal. Vol. 19, no. 2 (1996): 46 – 60.

“Gertrude Stein.” December 2, 2010. Wikipedia.

http://en.wikipedia.org (accessed December 3, 2010).

“Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732 – 1806).” March 18, 2010. Worldwide Art Resources. http://wwar.com/ (accessed December 2, 2010).

“Jean-Honoré Fragonard: The Bathers.” Boston College.

http://www.bc.edu/ (accessed December 3, 2010).

Jefferson, Thomas. “The Declaration of Independence.” 1776.

Krumrine, Mary Louise. “Cézanne’s ‘Restricted Power’: Further Reflections on the ‘Bathers.’” The Burlington Magazine Publications, Ltd. Vol. 134, no. 1074 (1992): 586 – 595.

Rewald, John. Cézanne: A Biography. New York: Harry N. Abrams Inc., 1986.

–  –  –

Saisselin, Remy G. “The Rococo as a Dream of Happiness.”

The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Vol. 19, no. 2 (1960):


Stockstad, Marilyn. Art History: Eighteenth to Twenty-First Century Art. New Jersey: Pearson Education Inc., 2009.

“The Large Bathers.” 2010. Philadelphia Museum of Art.

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