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Rupert Bunny Summer time c1907

Rupert Bunny

Australia, France 1864–1947
Born in Melbourne, Bunny left for London in 1884 before settling in Paris. He only returned permanently to Australia in the 1930s. His success during the five decades he spent in France saw his work exhibited throughout Europe and collected by leading museums. Nellie Melba, Auguste Rodin, Claude Debussy and Sarah Bernhardt were among his acquaintances. He was the first Australian to receive an honourable mention for a work at the Paris Salon, and by the end of his career, the French state had acquired no less than 13 of his works.

Summer time c1907

A creator of grand, sumptuous paintings of Parisian life in the late 1800s, Bunny was one of the most successful artists of his generation, although he wasn’t a household name in Australia. His romantic portrayals of beautiful women at leisure capture the charm of France’s ‘beautiful era’ – the seemingly endless, idyllic summer of the belle époque.

Depicting an intimate moment in a bathing house, this painting can also be interpreted as an allegory of summer as an ideal time and of the five senses (the rose – Bunny’s enduring symbol – symbolises smell). The women are shown as modern followers of Venus, the goddess of love and beauty. Their various states of undress give a languid feeling of time passing slowly.