There are many differences which I see between Cezanne’s Bathers and Vecchio’s Bathing Nymphs which make them both interesting yet very different pieces.
Firstly, both Cezanne and Vecchio use colour very differently to create two extremely contrasting pieces of art. Cezanne has used a restricted palate of cool colours with only a splash of warm hue; this creates a dark and almost cold feeling to the figures in the foreground. Vecchio on the other hand has used a more wide range of both cool and warm hues to give the cooling effect of nature and the warmness of the models. Vecchio also gives each figure incredible life like qualities by highlighting detail vividly with colour.
Cezanne and Vecchio both use light, but they use it differently. Cezanne has used a weak light source which appears to be coming from the viewpoint of the spectator and it is carefully highlighting the outline of the figures. The light source in Vecchio’s Bathing Nymphs on the other hand is rather difficult to pinpoint. It appears to be coming from the top left of the painting, highlighting the background landscape and buildings. The middle ground of the painting appears to be darker, as if overshadowed, but Vecchio’s use of colour vividly picks out the figures. This use of light gives a dramatic contrast between light and dark.
The perspectives of the two paintings appear to be different. Cezanne’s Bathers has an unrealistic, distorted perspective as if he has painted the figures from differing viewpoints whereas Vecchio’s Bathing Nymphs is far more sophisticated and more likely to have been painted from a fixed point. This gives Vecchio’s picture space depth and allows the spectator to fall into the world he has created.
Both artists use tonal shading and contrasting colours in opposing ways. Cezanne’s style of painting is impression and representation of life rather than detail for effect. The colours Cezanne used are of narrow tonal range whereas Vecchio used tonal shading and contrasting colours to give a realistic sense of size and of the human form. We call this technique modelling.
The composition of the two painting is also noticeably different. Using the rule of thirds Vecchio has placed his landscape and figures carefully to give a sense of proportions and size. The two figures in the foreground are incredibly detailed; it is these figures which are the focal point of this piece. Cezanne however has placed all of his figures in the lower section of the picture plane and his background in the higher sections; there also does not appear to be a middle-ground, this has made it difficult to differentiate between each piece of landscape and how far away it may be and give the painting a more one dimensional appearance. The focal point of Cezanne’s piece is the figures.
In conclusion I believe that the most significant differences between the two paintings are their use of colour and light. Cezanne’s Bathers is a dark and moody piece whereas Vecchio’s Bathing Nymphs is a light and colourful painting.
The Open University (2012), AA100 Illustration Book (Plates for Books 1 and 2), Milton Keynes, The Open University.
Harrison C, ‘Cezanne’ in Reputations (AA100, Book 1), pp 57-84, Milton Keynes, The Open University.