(London, Ontario, 1860 – Paris 1892)
After the Bath
Oil on canvas
147.3 x 110.5 cm
Gift of the Government of the Province of Ontario, 1972
Art Gallery of Ontario, 72/74
© Art Gallery of Ontario
Paul Peel’s After the Bath addresses the subject of childhood by portraying two nude children, fresh from the bath, warming themselves by a fireplace. Peel lends further warmth to the atmosphere by accentuating the chiaroscuro effects in the scene, which is based on a photograph. Shown at the 1890 Salon de la Société des artistes français in Paris, the painting won a third-class medal – a first in the history of Canadian art. After the Bath was praised by critics in France, but Canadian viewers, not understanding the painter’s intention of expressing the innocence of childhood, were disconcerted by the display of nudity.
After receiving drawing lessons from his farther, a marble cutter and stone carver, Ontario-born Paul Peel went on to study in the United States and France. He spent several summers painting landscapes at Pont-Aven, in Brittany. Although he produced a few genre scenes, Peel preferred to paint nude figures in domestic interiors. His work closely adhered to the academic conventions of realistic portrayal, and he exhibited several times at the Paris Salon. Just as his career was in full ascent, he died prematurely of a lung infection, leaving a body of work that testifies to his technical virtuosity.