Two women lounge in a cultivated garden overlooking a sea or lake, while a third figure approaches from the right. This calm scene is enriched by elements to stimulate the senses, brightened by multi-colored flowers arranged in circular beds that provide visual interest. Within the bed on the left is a fountain, offering an additional sensory suggestion of splashing water on a hot summer day. As is often the case with Abraham Walkowitz’s figures, the facial features are absent, leaving the viewer to focus on their languid bodily poses. The human figure and its movements were of great interest to the artist, who created thousands of watercolors of the famed dancer Isadora Duncan.
Known for his colorful watercolors, both figurative and abstract, Walkowitz participated in the pivotal 1913 Armory Show exhibition in New York City and was a key member of Alfred Steiglitz’s inner circle. Like others of that group, he advocated for experimentation and personal expression as part of the Modernist art movement. Bathers is possibly influenced by Paul Cezanne’s paintings of bathers, which Walkowitz would have seen in a Paris retrospective in 1907, but his art is rooted in his own experiences of a specific time and place.
As he wrote in 1916, “I am seeking to attune my art to what I feel to be the keynote of an experience. If it brings me a harmonious sensation, I then try to find the concrete elements that are likely to record the sensations in visual forms, in the medium of lines, of color shapes, of space division. When the line and color are sensitized, they seem to me alive with the rhythm which I felt in the thing that stimulated my imagination and my expression.”
Do the colors and composition of Bathers bring the scene alive for you? Does it give you a sensation of harmony?
~ Contributed by Cindy Buckner, associate curator