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The painting “Bathers” by Boris Kustodiev, now stored in Minsk at the National Art Museum of the Republic of Belarus, was painted in 1917. By this time, the artist was suffering from an incurable disease - a tumor of the spinal cord - and since then until his death he was deprived of the opportunity to move independently without the help of a wheelchair. Despite a serious illness, in the last 20 years of his life the painter was immersed in work, creating a number of outstanding paintings; in fact, they are a glimpse into the recent past, in stark contrast to the difficult economic and social situation that is taking shape in post-revolutionary Russia, which has been embraced by the civil war.
In "Bathers" Kustodiev creates a household sketch from peasant life. In the foreground there is a small river in which the artist depicts two naked young women: one of them has entered the water on the chest, the other is standing at the edge of the river, smoothing long hair. On the side, near a wooden fence, several women of different ages are resting, another one looks into the doorway of the gate.
The artist repeatedly returned to the theme of “Bathers” in subsequent years. The artistic feature of his work during this period is the image of healthy and full-bodied women, which is why he is often compared with the Flemish artist Rubens, who wrote in the same manner. It is interesting that Kustodiev himself was not a confident fan of obese female figures, but saw in them only the traditional folk ideal of beauty, which he tried to convey in his paintings.
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