A fresh, warm summer breeze seems to blow through the picture. With immediacy and spontaneity, the Swedish artist Anders Zorn manages to capture the play of the light against skin, water, and stone with his broad, rapid brushstrokes.
A naked woman stands atop a rock high above the water. As depicted by Zorn, the woman’s posture is not the conventional one of a nude but is entirely unabashed and natural. Without shame she allows her naked body to be warmed by the blazing sun as she peers out into the distance. Because of the high vantage point the figure is seen from, she is almost entirely framed by the water surface, and the water’s glittering, undulating structure seems to concentrically enfold her body. This harmonious unity between body and landscape breaks nonetheless with contemporary ideals of feminine modesty.
In the late 1880s, Zorn and other Scandinavian artists travelled far away from the large cities they hailed from and sought places where life was lived in accordance with nature. Zorn found his ideal location on the island of Dalarö, outmost in the Stockholm archipelago, where he painted a number of pictures of bathers from 1888 on. The result was paintings full of light and summer. He would often prepare these paintings with photographs, sketches, and watercolours.
Even though the original title in Swedish “Sea Nymph” and the woman’s conspicuously long hair refer to a mythical figure, Zorn creates here an independently Nordic impressionist reply to the Arcadian bathing scenes depicted by Cézanne, Renoir, and others. Zorn was the foremost impressionist in Scandinavia during his lifetime.
Text: Nils Ohlsen
From "Highlights. Art from Antiquity to 1945", Nasjonalmuseet 2014, ISBN 978-82-8154-088-0