The Sun Bath
Born in St Kilda, Melbourne, in 1864, the young Rupert Bunny explored the fields of civil engineering and acting, but ultimately enrolled at the National Gallery School of Design. He later studied painting in London and in Paris, where he would live until 1933. As was the case for many artists of his generation, his years abroad were to have a significant impact on his work. In 1901, Bunny began to move away from large, idealized subjects drawn from the Bible and classical mythology, turning his focus to landscapes, portraiture, and paintings of unidentified women, often posed languidly in idylllic settings. He excelled in expressing femininity in all its charm and elegant beauty, and this new direction in his work brought him considerable public acclaim.
The Sun Bath, c.1913, was executed at the height of Bunny's popularity. The scene depicted in this large-scale painting evokes the popular theme of women and nature in a harmonious union. The composition also demonstrates the artist's interest in two significant trends occurring in European art at the time: Orientalism (suggested by the inclusion of a decorative Asian screen) and Impressionism (evident, in particular, in the treatment of the landscape to the left of the figures). Bunny has utilized a strong natural light to illuminate the pale bodies of the women.