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Imitator of Théodore Rousseau, 'Moonlight: The Bathers', possibly 1860s-1880s

Key facts
Full title Moonlight: The Bathers
Artist Imitator of Théodore Rousseau
Artist dates 1812 - 1867
Date made possibly 1860s-1880s
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 52.1 × 67.3 cm
Acquisition credit Sir Hugh Lane Bequest, 1917, The National Gallery, London. In partnership with Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin.
Inventory number NG3269
Location On loan: Long Loan to The Hugh Lane (2019 - 2031), Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane, Dublin, Ireland
Collection Main Collection
Moonlight: The Bathers
Imitator of Théodore Rousseau

Two naked children appear to be bathing in a pool beneath a dark tree set against a cloudy, moonlit sky. A third child, who is clothed, sits on the bank near a patch of red that may be a fire.

It is likely that this picture was painted by a late nineteenth-century imitator of Theodore Rousseau and not by Rousseau himself. Some features of the painting – for example, the multi-directional brushwork of the sky and the delicate brushwork of the trees in background on the left – do recall landscapes painted by Rousseau. However, his landscapes are usually deserted. When he does include people, they never have the prominence of the three bathers we see here.

Unlike the lively confident brushwork of the background, the children themselves are crudely painted, and lines and dabs of thick dark paint have been used to add detail to their faces and clothing.

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