Bathers Seen from Behind is a figurative painting by Kazimir Malevich which is dated to around 1909. The artist made use of many styles in the early part of his career and most have classified this piece as from the Fauvist movement.
It is the use of bright colours which specifically connects to the Fauvist movement, and further examples of that can be found in the career of Henri Matisse. That creative Frenchman gave us the likes of Portrait of Madame Matisse, Open Window and Le Bonheur de Vivre and was highly regarded for his handling of colour. Malevich was not a Fauvist, but some of his paintings do bear a strong resemblance to that movement as he attempted to find a style of his own. He would eventually do so, and it would diverge a long way from the style found within Bathers Seen from Behind but artworks such as this are crucial in better understanding the path taken by Malevich as he went in search of a unique approach all of his own. This painting is owned by The Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam who actually offer a number of lesser known artworks from Malevich’s career.
Within the artwork we find two bathers out relaxing by a small river or stream. The artist changes colours from the original ones, with orange used for the water. One lady is reclining with her arm held out to the right for balance, whilst the other is leaning over into the water, perhaps washing her hair. Malevich continues the orange tones onto the backs of these bathers, and then slowly softens the colour in different bands. He then applies some green lines which separate these different areas of colour and helps to form the muscle build of these figures. Detail it must be said is kept to a minimum within this painting and this gives it a really contemporary feel. The likes of Degas and Renoir would famously feature bathing scenes within their paintings but Malevich chooses to approach the same content with a much more modern style. He therefore may have actually produced this painting pretty quickly, with the main focus on being accurate with the figurative shapes and then adding small details along the bank on which they sit.
Russian art will always count Malevich as being one of their most important members. He showed contemporary art a new direction and inspired many western artists, just as they had him. Whilst we continue to discuss his most famous artworks, it is important to recall the full array of work that he produced across his lifetime, and to remind ourselves of how he embraced many different approaches along the way. He took on Impressionism, Cubism and Fauvism, for example, and all of these influenced his journey which eventually ended up with the most abstract art that anyone had seen at that stage. It is pleasing that Russians also adore this artist, when he did experience difficulties in his homeland within his own lifetime, partly due to the turbulent political scene at that time.