The Young Bather

Gustave Courbet (French, Ornans 1819–1877 La Tour-de-Peilz)

Oil on canvas
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
Accession Number:
  • Gallery Label

    In 1853, Courbet created a scandal when he exhibited Bathers (Musée Fabre, Montpellier), one of his earliest paintings of nudes in a landscape. The realism of his figures shocked his contemporaries, who were accustomed to the idealized nudes of academic art. Here, the highly finished figure contrasts with the more loosely painted landscape background, which was possibly executed with a palette knife rather than a brush.

    This painting and five others by Courbet once belonged to the nineteenth-century Turkish collector Khalil Bey.

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Inscription: Signed and dated (lower left): 66 / G. Courbet.

  • Provenance

    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.)

  • Exhibition History

    Brussels. Cercle Artistique et Littéraire. "14 tableaux de Gustave Courbet exposés appartenant à des collectionneurs belges," 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. 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. 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, New York," 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]").

  • References

    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.

    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.

    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].

    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.

    Camille Lemonnier. G. Courbet et son oeuvre. Paris, [1878], pp. 72–73 [reprinted in "Les Peintres de la vie," 1888, pp. 50–51], describes it at length and mentions seeing it at "le Cercle," the 1878 exhibition in Brussels.

    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.

    Joséphin Péladan. "Etudes esthetiques de decadence: Gustave Courbet." L'Artiste 2 (December 1884), p. 411.

    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).

    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".

    Paul Jamot in "École française." La Peinture au Musée du Louvre. 1, 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.

    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.

    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".

    R. H. Wile[n]ski. French Painting. Boston, 1931, p. 224.

    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.

    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. "XIX Century." French Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 2, New York, 1966, pp. 127–28, ill.

    Jack Lindsay. Gustave Courbet: His Life and Art. New York, 1973, p. 218.

    Robert Fernier. "Peintures, 1866–1877." La vie et l'oeuvre de Gustave Courbet. 2, 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 in Splendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1993, p. 272, pl. 269.

    Gretchen Wold in Splendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1993, p. 317, no. A146, ill. p. 316.

    Anthony Bond, Sarah Faunce, Suzannah Biernoff, Caroline Butler-Bowdon in Body. Exh. cat., Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney. Melbourne, 1997, pp. 103, 196, no. 21, fig. 128.

    Petra ten-Doesschate Chu in Courbet: artiste et promoteur de son oeuvre. 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 in The 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 in Gustave Courbet. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. New York, 2008, p. 377 [French ed., Paris, 2007], calls it "Bather".

    Dominique Lobstein in Gustave Courbet. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. New York, 2008, p. 438 [French ed., Paris, 2007].

    Klaus Herding in Courbet: A Dream of Modern Art. Exh. cat., Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt. Ostfildern, 2010, pp. 228–29, no. 67, ill. (color).

  • See also