Oil on board 34.7 x 47.6 cm Framed. Signed 'M Liebermann' in black lower left. - A narrow stripe along the left edge has been left unpainted, the lower edge slightly irregularly cut. The lower corners with unobtrusive weak folds due to compression.
For many years life at the beaches of the North Sea occupied Max Liebermann during the stays he spent working in Holland. Numerous studies of bathing boys appeared once again in 1899, after he had already created a first large version on this theme in 1896 (see Eberle 1896/2).
However, while in this first version the beach opens up along a deep diagonal into the pictorial space, thus permitting the viewer to wander along the beach - so to speak - his position is different in the later version of the present rendering: standing directly in the wet sand, he is confronted by the waves rolling towards him, and the lifeguard at the left edge of the painting forms a repoussoir that draws him directly into the scene of the bathing crowd of boys.
The cropping of the figure of the lifeguard and the rapid brushstroke provide the study with an invigorating spontaneity that is lacking in the composition completed in the following winter in Liebermann's Berlin studio (see comparative illustration).
The sea as depicted by Liebermann is not an element that, in its primal power, is capable of destruction - instead, it serves the refreshment and recreation of the bathers. “[...] on their glaring sands, the adults promenade and laze about, the children play, the hooded beach chairs and bathing machines are lined up; it is the sea of the bathers.” (Erich Hancke, cited in Matthias Eberle, Liebermann: Werkverzeichnis der Gemälde 1900-1935, Munich 1996, vol. 2, p. 548)
We would like to thank Matthias Eberle, Berlin, for kind information.
Private collection, Northern Germany