“Ah, gentleman. I’m glad to see you’ve all managed to arrive safely. I trust you had pleasant journeys.”
Murmurs of assent.
“Let us begin. Europe is at the height of her cultural and political influence; we have the riches of the classical world as well as the novelties of the Age of Discovery to draw upon as we enter a new era of artistic expression. What, then, shall we paint?”
“Nothing? Gentlemen, I’m surprised at you. Speak up.”
A small voice from the back of the room.
“What if…what if we draw a lot of pictures of women getting out of the bathtub? From behind?”
Astonished whispers. Bathtubs, women, balderdash, nonsense, never heard of such a thing, backsides.
“Let him speak, gentleman.”
“I think…I think it would be interesting. To just paint a lot of women, stepping out of bathtubs, from the back, for the foreseeable future.”
“Could we also draw these women stepping into the bathtub? Or in the act of bathing itself?”
“No. Only immediately after.”
Another voice interjects.
“Could the ladies be painted from another angle? Facing the painter, for example, or three-quarte–”
“Ladies, stepping out of tubs, from behind.”
“I see. And what kind of fully-bathed women shall we paint?”
“Just tall, Dutch-looking women with braided hair. That’s it.”
“Well, maybe a few French ladies. But nobody else.”
“Gentlemen? Shall we put it to a vote?”
The motion carries, unanimously.
Edgar Degas, Woman At Her Bath
Albrecht Dürer, Woman’s Bath
Pierre-Auguste Renoir, The Large Bathers
François Boucher, Diana After the Bath
Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, The Turkish Bath
Edward Degas, Breakfast After A Bath
John Reinhard Weguelin, The Bath
Anders Zorn, Le Tub
Hermann Pleuer, The Bathing Girls
Vladimir Alexandrovich Plotnikov, In The Bath House
Tony Robert-Fleury, Le Bain
Anders Zorn, Girls from Dalarna in the sauna
Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Bather Sitting
Paul Peel, A Venetian Bather
Jean-Léon Gérôme, The Bathers
André Favory, Bathing Nude
Edward Degas, The Bath — Woman Supporting Her Back
Edward Degas, Candaules’s Wife
Alexandre Jacques Chantron, Pleasures of Summer
Mallory is an Editor of The Toast.