The Art of Bathing. A Summer Exhibition at the Kupferstichkabinett

from: 04.07.2014 to: 26.10.2014
Kupferstichkabinett

Bathing is closely associated with three spheres of human life: the body, hygiene, and conviviality. While bathing, the nude - or artfully covered - body has the opportunity to commune with nature and naturalness, both in its unfettered movements and in relation to its environs.The environmentvaries; it may be a group of other bathers or the intimacy of a private reverie, an aquatic landscape (such as the ponds of Arcadia or the beach paradises of the South Seas), a narrow boudoir with a washtub, or an old German or oriental bathhouse. In contrast, hygiene is not primarily associated with beauty, but rather with the concepts of health and well-being. In addition to physical cleaning, hygiene also stands for an inner, spiritual cleansing and the myth of water as a fountain of youth and primordial element of life.

A great number of social circles take pleasure in bathing. In this context, bathing becomes an activity in which people can express themselves freely, whether in the form of water sports, aleisurely day at the beach, the social setting of fashionable sea and spa towns, or even different kinds of swimwear. Bathing signifies a culture of leisure and imagination, amusement and eroticism. Especially in the classical arts, the subject of bathing has allegorical, mythological, and literary associations. Popular representations of the "Fountain of Youth", "Diana and Her Nymphs Bathing", the intriguing story of "David and Bathsheba", or the beautiful Venus bathing in the nude are only a few examples of the boundless artistic fascination with bathing. The theme, however, can also quickly transform into a caricature, or give way to the abyss of elemental challenges and primal fears, as seen in images of swimming, drowning, and sinking.

In the Kupferstichkabinett's exhibition, numerous works of artistic style and potency illustrate the many sensuous and cultural dimensions of bathing as a motif. It is divided into six thematic chapters and comprises 100 outstanding originals by Dürer, Degas, Rembrandt, and contemporary artists. With their rippling lines, flowing colours, and dancing brush strokes, these works on paper adeptly present intimate and striking images of bathing.

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