The traditional theme of women bathing attracted Courbet’s attention repeatedly in the 1860s. This scene revisits a motif that excited a furor of controversy when the artist first broached it a decade earlier: a realistically fleshy nude at water’s edge in a woodland setting. But by the time the present work was exhibited, viewers were more accepting of Courbet’s approach. One writer praised this "beautiful girl" dipping her toes in the water as "health itself, with an ample and plump silhouette . . . . One could not be more independent or more true."
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Title:The Young Bather
Artist:Gustave Courbet (French, Ornans 1819–1877 La Tour-de-Peilz)
Medium:Oil on canvas
Dimensions:51 1/4 x 38 1/4 in. (130.2 x 97.2 cm)
Credit Line:H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929
Inscription: Signed and dated (lower left): 66 / G. Courbet.
Khalil-Bey, Paris (until 1868; his sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, January 16–18, 1868, no. 10, for Fr 3,700, to Belling); Belling (from 1868); Sainctelette, Brussels (in 1878); Mrs. H. O. (Louisine W.) Havemeyer, New York (1920–d. 1929; bought through Théodore Duret, probably for Fr 60,000; first offered to her by Duret, January 16, 1917; received by her, February 10, 1920; cat., 1931, pp. 82–83, ill.)
Brussels. Cercle Artistique et Littéraire. "14 tableaux de Gustave Courbet exposés appartenant à des collectionneurs belges," January 22–27, 1878 (lent by Sainctelette) [see Lemonnier 1878 and Estignard 1896].
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The H. O. Havemeyer Collection," March 10–November 2, 1930, no. 31 [2nd ed., 1958, no. 95].
New York. Wildenstein & Co., Inc. "A Loan Exhibition of Gustave Courbet," December 2, 1948–January 8, 1949, no. 29 (as "La baigneuse").
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Nudes in Landscapes: Four Centuries of a Tradition," May 18–August 5, 1973, no catalogue.
Leningrad [St. Petersburg]. State Hermitage Museum. "100 Paintings from the Metropolitan Museum," May 22–July 27, 1975, no. 61.
Moscow. State Pushkin Museum. "100 Paintings from the Metropolitan Museum," August 28–November 2, 1975, no. 61.
University of California Santa Barbara Art Museum. "The Cult of Images," April 6–May 8, 1977, no. 1 (as "The Young Bather").
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Splendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection," March 27–June 20, 1993, no. A146.
Oberlin, Ohio. Allen Memorial Art Museum. "In Focus: Courbet's 'Young Bather' and the Genre of the Female Nude," March 15–August 14, 1994, no catalogue.
Oberlin, Ohio. Allen Memorial Art Museum. "The Nature of Realism: Courbet and the Landscape," August 25–December 20, 1994, no catalogue.
Galleria d'Arte Moderna Bologna. "Il Nudo fra Ideale e Realtà: Dal Neoclassicismo ad Oggi," January 22–May 9, 2004, no. 34 (as "Bather").
The Hague. Gemeentemuseum. "De Naakte Waarheid: Courbet en het 19e-eeuwse naakt," March 11–June 18, 2006, unnumbered cat. (p. 62).
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. "The Masterpieces of French Painting from The Metropolitan Museum of Art: 1800–1920," February 4–May 6, 2007, no. 27.
Berlin. Neue Nationalgalerie. "Französische Meisterwerke des 19. Jahrhunderts aus dem Metropolitan Museum of Art," June 1–October 7, 2007, unnumbered cat.
Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt. "Courbet: A Dream of Modern Art," October 15, 2010–January 30, 2011, no. 67 (as "Girl Bathing [La jeune baigneuse]").
Basel. Fondation Beyeler. "Gustave Courbet," September 7, 2014–January 18, 2015, unnumbered cat. (ill. p. 117).
Ferrara. Palazzo dei Diamanti. "Courbet e la natura," September 22, 2018–January 6, 2019, no. 37.
Brisbane. Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art. "European Masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York," June 12–October 17, 2021, unnumbered cat.
Osaka. Osaka City Museum of Fine Arts. "European Masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York," November 13, 2021–January 16, 2022.
Tokyo. National Art Center. "European Masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York," February 9–May 30, 2022.
Théophile Gautier. "Variétés: Beaux-arts: Collection Khalil-Bey." Le moniteur universel (December 14, 1867), p. 1557, notes that it was in the collection of Khalil-Bey.
Gustave Courbet. Letter. February 1, 1868, proposes this as one of four paintings for the dining room of a prospective collector, probably Belling [see Ref. Delestre 1962].
Eugène Boudin. Notebook entry. 1868 [published in G. Cahen, "Eugène Boudin: sa vie & son oeuvre," Paris, 1900, p. 193], records his admiration of this picture on seeing it at the Khalil-Bey sale.
Le Hir. "Meubles et mobiliers." Journal des amateurs d'objets d'art et de curiosité 15 (1868), p. 10, lists its sale price of Fr 3,700 in the Khalil-Bey sale.
Paul Mantz. "Gustave Courbet—Part 3." Gazette des beaux-arts, 2nd ser., 18 (1878), pp. 375–78, ill. (drawing by A. Gilbert), as in the collection of Sainctelette, Brussels; dates it 1866, praises its powerful execution, but criticizes the proportions and the drawing of the face.
Camille Lemonnier. "Exposition Courbet au Cercle Artistique et Littéraire." L’artiste: Courrier hebdomadaire artistique, littéraire, musical (February 5, 1878), p. 32 [reprinted in Lemonnier 1878 and Lemonnier 1888], describes and praises it at length.
Camille Lemonnier. G. Courbet et son oeuvre. Paris, , pp. 72–73.
Joséphin Péladan. "Etudes esthetiques de decadence: Gustave Courbet." L'artiste 2 (December 1884), p. 411.
Camille Lemonnier. Les Peintres de la vie. Paris, 1888, pp. 50–51.
Alexandre Estignard. Courbet: sa vie, ses oeuvres. Besançon, 1896, pp. 73–74, 164, praises its rich coloration and notes erroneously that it was exhibited in Brussels in 1877.
Georges Riat. Gustave Courbet peintre. Paris, 1906, pp. 245–46, 259, 387, ill. p. 247, as in a private collection in Brussels; identifies the setting as the banks of the Loue; suggests it was painted in the autumn of 1866; notes the figure's similarity to several other works, including "Woman with a Parrot" (MMA 29.100.57), and observes that the figure appears, reduced and accessory, in another landscape (possibly F327, present whereabouts unknown).
Paul Jamot inLa Peinture au Musée du Louvre. Vol. 1, École française. Paris, 1929, p. 15, describes a picture that once belonged to Juliette Courbet of a standing bather in the position of the model in this work.
Arsène Alexandre. "La Collection Havemeyer: Courbet et Corot." La Renaissance 12 (June 1929), p. 278, ill. p. 274, refers to it as both "Femme au bain" and "Baigneuse".
Frank Jewett Mather Jr. "The Havemeyer Pictures." The Arts 16 (March 1930), p. 477, ill. p. 446, calls it "The Bather".
Harry B. Wehle. "The Exhibition of the H. O. Havemeyer Collection." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 25 (March 1930), p. 55, believes that this is one of Courbet's finest nudes.
R. H. Wile[n]ski. French Painting. Boston, 1931, p. 224.
H. O. Havemeyer Collection: Catalogue of Paintings, Prints, Sculpture and Objects of Art. n.p., 1931, pp. 82–83, ill., calls it "Nude—La jeune baigneuse".
Charles Léger. Courbet et son temps (Lettres et documents inédits). Paris, 1948, pp. 178, 196.
Gerstle Mack. Gustave Courbet. New York, 1951, pp. 211, 213, refers to the figure as "ungainly" and notes that the arms are poorly drawn.
Josephine L. Allen and Elizabeth E. Gardner. A Concise Catalogue of the European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1954, p. 22.
Georges Grimmer. "Zoé Courbet." Les amis de Gustave Courbet bulletin nos. 17–18 (1956), p. 5, suggests that the face of this bather may have been inspired by that of Courbet's sister Zoé.
Gaston Delestre. Letter to Margaretta Salinger. March 10, 1962, records a letter from Courbet of February 1, 1868, and suggests that the related painting mentioned in Ref. Riat 1906 may be one reproduced in Meier-Graefe, "Courbet," Munich, 1921, pl. 98 (F327).
Charles Sterling and Margaretta M. Salinger. French Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Vol. 2, XIX Century. New York, 1966, pp. 127–28, ill.
Jack Lindsay. Gustave Courbet: His Life and Art. New York, 1973, p. 218.
Robert Fernier. La vie et l'oeuvre de Gustave Courbet. Vol. 2, Peintures, 1866–1877. Lausanne, 1978, p. 10, no. 535, ill. p. 11, calls it "Baigneuse"; identifies it as a picture lent by Luquet to an exhibition at Durand-Ruel in 1878.
Pierre Courthion. L'opera completa di Courbet. Milan, 1985, p. 103, no. 525, ill., colorpl. XXVI, calls it "Bagnante".
Frances Weitzenhoffer. The Havemeyers: Impressionism Comes to America. New York, 1986, pp. 239, 257, pl. 161, states that Mrs. Havemeyer bought this picture in 1920 through the agent Théodore Duret
Susan Alyson Stein inSplendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1993, p. 272, pl. 269.
Gretchen Wold inSplendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1993, p. 317, no. A146, ill. p. 316.
Katharine Baetjer. European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Artists Born Before 1865: A Summary Catalogue. New York, 1995, p. 427, ill.
Anthony Bond, Sarah Faunce, Suzannah Biernoff, Caroline Butler-Bowdon inBody. Ed. Anthony Bond. Exh. cat., Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney. Melbourne, 1997, pp. 103, 196, no. 21, fig. 128.
Petra ten-Doesschate Chu inCourbet: artiste et promoteur de son oeuvre. Ed. Jörg Zutter and Petra ten-Doesschate Chu. Exh. cat., Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts de Lausanne. Paris, 1998, pp. 15, 31, 81, fig. 86, remarks that this is one of the six paintings by Courbet that Khalil Bey acquired in the course of a single year.
Kathryn Calley Galitz inThe Masterpieces of French Painting from The Metropolitan Museum of Art: 1800–1920. Exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. New York, 2007, pp. 47, 201, no. 27, ill. (color and black and white).
Laurence des Cars inGustave Courbet. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2008, p. 377 [French ed., Paris, 2007], calls it "Bather".
Dominique Lobstein inGustave Courbet. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2008, p. 438 [French ed., Paris, 2007].
Klaus Herding inCourbet: A Dream of Modern Art. Ed. Klaus Herding and Max Hollein. Exh. cat., Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt. Ostfildern, 2010, pp. 228–29, no. 67, ill. (color).
Jean-Philippe Huys inGustave Courbet et la Belgique: Réalisme de l'art vivant à l'art libre. Exh. cat., Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique. Milan, 2013, pp. 115, 121, fig. 72 (color), ill. p. 114 (color detail).
Jeffery Howe inGustave Courbet et la Belgique: Réalisme de l'art vivant à l'art libre. Exh. cat., Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique. Milan, 2013, pp. 136, 143 n. 33.
Jeffery Howe inCourbet: Mapping Realism; Paintings from the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium and American Collections. Ed. Jeffery Howe. Exh. cat., McMullen Museum of Art, Boston College. Chestnut Hill, Mass., 2013, pp. 14, 19 n. 60.
Xavier Rey inCourbet / Cézanne: La vérité en peinture. Ed. Denis Coutagne. Exh. cat., Musée Gustave Courbet, Ornans. Lyons, 2013, pp. 94, 96, fig. 6 (color), states that this figure has the perfectly-rounded buttocks of a nude painted by François Boucher; compares Courbet's visual rhyming of nude and nature here to that of Cézanne in his nudes.
Ulf Küster inGustave Courbet. Exh. cat., Fondation Beyeler. Riehen/Basel, 2014, pp. 17–18, 115, 195, ill. p. 117, fig. 2 (color).
Isolde Pludermacher inCourbet e la natura. Exh. cat., Palazzo dei Diamanti. Ferrara, 2018, p. 215, calls it a kind of metamorphosis of Courbet's 1853 "Bathers" (Musée Fabre, Montpellier).
Stéphanie Cantarutti inCourbet e la natura. Exh. cat., Palazzo dei Diamanti. Ferrara, 2018, p. 222, no. 37, ill. (color).
Katharine Baetjer inEuropean Masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Exh. cat., Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art. South Brisbane, 2021, pp. 189, 231, ill. p. 188 (color).
Chris Saines inEuropean Masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Exh. cat., Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art. South Brisbane, 2021, p. 51, ill. (color detail).
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Gustave Courbet (French, Ornans 1819–1877 La Tour-de-Peilz)
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