Few things are as evocative, intimate, and private as moments spent bathing.
The bathtub offers an emotional framework. Door locked, body submerged, the bathtub is an internal world. The figure can literally be soaked in it.
Most painted bathers are young attractive women, of course, so the gender, race, and body issues are very present. I’d love to see more varied bodies in the water. An older woman? Men? I found one modern bathing man, an illustration in pink. The other was murdered in 1793. Deceased but still a man. Included.
For my own paintings, the bathtub offers a compositional framework. Similar to Degas, I’d rather draw a woman washing her ankle than draw a woman just standing there. The bathtub edge gives a physical support system to prop the limbs at angles from the body. Triangles are formed, and the washrag adds an extra excuse for connections: a hand touches a knee, and the background becomes enclosed. Compositionally, her directed gaze helps the viewer’s eyes circulate around the drawing so flow is easier, and the scene becomes a study of a moment, not just a study of a body.
From above, the bathtub edge lines up with the canvas. Nothing need be corralled into the frame, it’s done already.
Water is a welcome compliment to the figure. Water is emotional, it’s movement. It’s also a technical challenge. The flesh interacts with water and the artist gets to play with color shifts, with solid form and translucency.
Below is a collection of bathtub paintings. I’d love to add more. No doubt I’m missing thousands, by artists I’ve forgotten or have yet to learn about. If you have a painting to add to the collection, please post it here.