Kąpiące się kobiety Walden, Lionel (1861 - 1933)

Kąpiące się kobiety

Lionel Walden (1861-1933)
was an American painter born in Connecticut. Since his student days, when he studied in the studio of Carolus-Duran, he has remained loyal to Paris. He lived there until 1914, regularly exhibiting his paintings at the Salon Société des Artistes Français. In 1910 he was made a knight of the French Legion of Honor. He traveled around France, Cornwall, Wales and could be seen during outdoor work on the coasts of Normandy and Brittany. He painted marine, port and railway landscapes. He was most famous for his artistic work on the Hawaiian Islands, which began in 1911, depicting views of volcanoes, genre scenes with native peoples and the surrounding landscapes.

Description of the painting:
The work depicts two nude women on the beach in a rocky coastline. The viewer takes on the role of a silent observer who appears behind them and at the same time participates in the contemplation of nature. The sloping line running from left to right across the canvas sets the boundary of the shore, separating the figures from each other. The first of them sits on the sand, her body turned three-quarters to the left. Sitting, she embraces her legs bent at the knees. Her light complexion contrasts with lush, dark hair tied high into a bun. This model had already appeared in the artist’s earlier work entitled “Bathing” from around 1895. We recognize it by the almost identical framing and realistic portrayal. The colors have changed, dictated not only by the lighting of the place where she found herself. In the first version, clear influences of impressionism are noticeable, distinguished by the play of light or a clear light-shadow contrast. Its second version is characterized by a flat color patch, which is typical of synthetism.

On the left of the main figure, we can see another one in the center of the composition. Standing in kneehigh water she pins up her hair, raising her hands up. Each of the women represents a different position: a closed one belonging to the safe space of the beach and an open one, which, in connection with the surrounding element, may symbolize the purification of body and spirit. Interpreting the work in this way, the representation of the model closer to the viewer would be a reference to passivity and reluctance to change, which is additionally emphasized by the surrounding shadow. Taking into account the fact that her silhouette was used by the painter in another work, the image of both may also express the inner transformation of the same person her past and present. At the same time, they look in the same direction, towards the birds flying in the background of the rocks. The intimacy of the scene is emphasized by the closing of the scenery with a stone curtain, covering the horizon. Only the left corner of the work shows a fragment of the sky, on which two more birds are soaring.

This representation is filled with uninterrupted calmness, it is a moment of reflection to which the models succumb. The dynamism of the picture we read in the technical solution of the planned composition. The static figures of women with a soft modeling were set against the rough texture of the rocks, built of torn, diagonal lines. The counterweight to them are the horizontal strips of water, which, due to the movement and presence of a person, are arranged in the form of radiating circles.

Knowing Walden‘s other works, it turns out that he returned to the same or similar places in terms of composition. This is also the case with the bathing women. We observe them at the right bend of the water, and looking at the work with two fishermen on the shore and two in the boat (presented at the Honolulu Museum of Art), we can get the impression of a mirrored captured landscape. The artist chose again the end of the day with intense light of the setting sun, which spreads its glow on graybrown rocks. The warm shades of red and orange seem to ignite the upper part of the work, and its lower part, absorbed by purples, crimsons and greens, remains in the shadow.