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Museum of Fine Arts, Boston displays Cezanne’s painting The Large Bathers

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston presents Cezanne’s painting The Large Bathers on display February 2 through May 12, 2013.

Paul Cezanne (French, 1839–1906), The Large Bathers, 1906. Oil on canvas. Philadelphia Museum of Art: Purchased with the W.P. Wilstach Fund. Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Two different visions of earthly paradise created by two modern masters—Paul Cézanne (1839–1906) and Paul Gauguin (1848–1903)—will hang side-by-side for the first time in Boston as part of the Visiting Masterpieces series at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA). The Large Bathers (ca. 1900–1906, Paul Cézanne), lent by the Philadelphia Museum of Art, will be juxtaposed with the MFA’s Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? (D’où venons-nous? Que sommes-nous? Où allons-nous?) (1897–98, Paul Gauguin).

Measuring 7 by 8 feet, The Large Bathers comprises 14 nude figures in movement and repose along a sandy, sunlit shoreline, their grouping framed by a graceful triangle of slanting tree-trunks. The bathers’ activities are enigmatic, their poses, statuesque. Emerging from Cézanne’s lifetime of study, the individual bathers have been traced to varied sources, from student drawings after the live model to a study of the Venus de Milo. Simplified, abstracted, distilled to their essential geometric forms, these nudes exist outside of ordinary reality.

The Large Bathers and Where Do We Come From? were created at the turn of the 20th century. During this period, both artists were at the end of their careers—Cézanne working in Provence, and Gauguin in Tahiti. They knew each other’s work; Gauguin had even bought several paintings by the older artist before his own artistic career took off, but Cézanne remained suspicious of the young Gauguin, regarding him as a potential competitor.

For more information, visit or call 617.267.9300. The MFA is located on the Avenue of the Arts at 465 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02115.

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