The Small Bather is another famous oil painting by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres. It was finished at the time when Ingres was studying at the French Academy in Rome. It experienced the same situation as his another great painting Grande Odalisque when it first exhibited in public.
Ingres perfectly combined his ideal for classical beauty and his description of the specific objects. Among all of Ingres’ oil paintings that depicting female nudes, The Small Bather and The Source are undoubtedly the best two. The Small Bather was painted in 1808 when Ingres was 28 years old. The wonderful sight of women’s back almost made him so excited that he had no much time for his techniques. The dim tone quivered in this tender back. Although the color was original, there was also something pleasing. The green curtains, light yellow skin, white sheets and the white and red silk scarf were arranged one by one on a flat surface, just like mosaic ornaments harmoniously intertwined together.
With regards to Ingres's painting, some critics thought that they were the continuation of Rafael’s perfect lines, while some regarded them as the announcement of Picasso’s distortion painting style. The great poet Baudelaire praised Ingres has "the most daring talent” though there were also some criticism saying that Ingres was “weird and arrogant". In fact, as Ingres described himself, he was a "revolutionary painter” who made innovation on painting ideas and emotional expression from his heart.
As with the previous, The Small Bather is shown from behind; moreover it shows a calm and measured sensuality instead of overt sexuality. The Small Bather depicts a sentimental, plump young woman. This image reflects the painter’s personal aesthetic. The figure in the painting is in the correct construction and has delicate skin. Ingres uses cool neutrals and muted hues that give a feeling of nobility and tranquility. The description of the objects is extremely realistic, reflecting Ingres's superb painting techniques.