A woman in a tank top and shorts is sitting on the bank of a lake or river, facing forward. She is surrounded by violet and bluish rocks. Her knees are spread apart and her feet are crossed. A small plant is growing near her feet.

Prudence Heward

(Montréal 1896 – Los Angeles 1947)

 

The Bather

1930

Oil on canvas

162 x 106 cm

Purchased in 1974

Art Gallery of Windsor, 1974.010

Photo: Art Gallery of Windsor 


Prudence Heward’s The Bather was first exhibited in 1933 at the Art Gallery of Toronto. At the time, it aroused controversy because of the model’s daring pose and the position of her left hand, near her crotch. This casual posture and the subject’s piercing stare clearly diverged from the academic conventions of portraiture. The realistic rendering of the unidealized body contrasts with the schematized rocks, which recall the geometric landscapes of the French painter Paul Cézanne (1839-1906).


Prudence Heward trained at the Art Association of Montreal, where her teachers included William Brymner. He acquainted her with modern art and encouraged her to paint in a free, personal manner. Heward was known for her sculpturesque portraits of women and children, whom she often pictured in brightly coloured landscapes composed of simple geometric forms. She was associated with the Beaver Hall Group and shared their choices in terms of subject matter and modern style.

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