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August 01, 1955
After the turn of the century bathers—and painters—took to the water
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August 01, 1955

By The Beautiful Sea

After the turn of the century bathers—and painters—took to the water

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When this brave new world turned the corner of the centurv in 1900 it shook off many old conventions, not least of which was a distaste for getting wet when bathing. With the diminishing bulk of the bathing suits came an increase in the desire to wear them, and daring young moderns found they could really swim. A day at the beach became the popular American custom it is today. At the time of this emancipation of the incipient sportsman the world of art was also undergoing a liberation. Young American painters, with a new outlook, made a final break with Victorianism, embraced the sunlit painting of the Impressionists in France, and painted life about them without a heavy veil of dull colors and the binding rule of conservatism. The burgeoning beaches naturally attracted them. On these pages the work of three of these men—Maurice Prendergast, Arthur B. Davies and Charles H. Woodbury—shows the delight of a swim at the seashore during the '20s.

Bathing beach by one of America's greatest artists, George Bellows, is a masterful example of his skill in lithography. He found material for his black lithograph crayon in the same colorful scenes that inspired his paintings. Like his friends Prendergast, Davies and Woodbury (following pages), he loved the beach and its sunny, gay atmosphere. This picture of a crowded strand and the happy people on it was sketched by Bellows during a summer spent in Newport in 1917.

"Bathing, Marblehead" by Maurice Prendergast, is a gay and colorful scene of a happy day at the beach.

"Bright day, bathers," by Arthur B. Davies, is a simple statement of the pleasure of play in the rolling surf under the great encompassing dome of blue sky.

"Surf, narrow cove" is Charles H. Woodbury's vignette of crashing sea, rocks and a few bright dots of humanity scattered like bobbing corks in the maelstrom.

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