After the Bath
Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida (1863-1923)
Oil on canvas
176 x 111.5 cm
Painted at a Valencian beach in the summer of 1908, After the Bath is without doubt one of Sorolla's most magnificent and memorable works. Ever since it was first exhibited at the Hispanic Society in 1909, it has elicited admiration. Sorolla again demonstrates his technical mastery in his rendering of the translucent fabric that clings to the young woman's flesh, still wet from her dip in the sea. The brilliant tonalities found within the white backdrop cloth protectively held by the straw-hatted youthpossibly one of those seen in Children on the Beach and Beach of Valencia by Morning Lightare similarly impressive.
Although this female described as "a young Greek goddess emerging from the sea," has evoked thoughts of a Hellenistic sensibility in Sorolla's subconscious, the scene would have been familiar and quite routine at Valencia's Mediterranean shore. Nonetheless, several features evoke memories of classical art: above all the young woman's canonically determined height (seven and a half heads) and the wet folds of the dress she clasps together at her shoulder. Rather than an image of hedonistic eroticism or a pagan Valencia as some have interpreted it, perhaps the canvas should be considered as Sorolla's vision of contemporary reality of health, happiness and strength to he derived from sea and sun.
Text and images © Hispanic Society of America.