Nu dans le Bain is the most iridescent, luminous metamorphosis of the five variations on Marthe in the bath. It also shows how closely Bonnard worked with his subject: “Marthe dismembered or floating passively as if almost dead is the heroine of his most exciting paintings,” wrote Linda Nochlin. In this composition, the reflecting surfaces (water, wet skin, the tiles, the reflection from the window, the lino floor with its diamond pattern) play off each other as in an echo chamber; the whole thing governed by the vertical and horizontal planes. The painter has created a flaming reliquary of languid flesh. As André Lhote pointed out, the sunshine yellow next to the colder blues and the violet, a slowly corroding colour that gives itself up only gradually, produce this impression of the body dissolving in light; or perhaps it is the light that acts as a kind of developing solution, requiring the gaze to wait a necessary amount of time before the initial bedazzlement is revealed – the sensation of it, and the emotion.
Nu dans le bain
Oil on canvas
Musée d'Art moderne de la Ville de Paris