The Bathers (1928)
John Steuart Curry
“John Steuart Curry’s The Bathers depicts nude farmers and farm boys cavorting in and around a cattle tank after another day of hard work. As the common meeting place for different ages of men, the tank serves as a visual metaphor for life itself, into which the two pre-pubescent boys have only begun to dive and through which the older, wiser farmer looking on at left has already passed. While youth and maturity occupy the margins of manly experience, the young men romping at right are immersed in it fully, a suggestion that they enjoy, however unconsciously, the prime of their lives. Curry elevated his mundane subject matter by adopting certain aspects of Italian Renaissance art, including the balanced composition and carefully modeled figures.
The Bathers is one of a group of paintings in which Curry examined farm life in his native Kansas. His interest in rural subjects was shared by Thomas Hart Benton from Missouri and Grant Wood from Iowa, with whom he became identified in the 1930s as leaders of the regionalist movement, part of a larger revolt against the perceived inordinate influence of European modern art on American culture.”