Richard Wintzer, A Young Woman & Bathing Machine

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Richard Wintzer, A Young Woman & Bathing Machine

Regular price £395.00
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This early 20th-century drawing by German artist Richard Wintzer (1866-1952) depicts a lady standing before a bathing machine. It’s a risque portrayal given the date so it’s likely that it’s his wife, Alma.

She stands with one arm on a wooden door, posed as if at ballet practice, dressed in a sleeveless swimming costume. The bathing machine protects her dignity from the gaze of potential beach onlookers. In 1904, when Wintzer produced this charming drawing, times were a little different and ladies were expected to cover up. In 1907, Annette Kellerman, an Australian swimmer had the audacity to don a swimsuit, which revealed her arms, legs and her neck, during a visit to the USA. She was arrested for public indecency. If Wintzer’s wife Alma had wandered too far from the confines of the bathing machine, she too could’ve suffered the same fate. Of course, for men, the rules didn’t apply with equal fervour.

Bathing machines were a common sight during the late 18th and throughout the 19th century. These small mobile changing rooms were often wheeled into the water, allowing the incumbent to paddle with privacy. First witnessed in Margate, England, they reached their heyday following Queen Victoria’s regular use, including on the beach at Osborne House. But as time progressed, they became a rather stagnant metaphor of traditional thinking with many rotting across various shores. The Edwardian press was quite humorous in its descriptions of these decaying timber antiques with one reporter referring to them as “cheerless Noah’s Arks”. There were also numerous accidents involving them toppling over or rolling out to sea while inhabited - much to the disdain of the floating passenger. A mournful poem from 1907 reads:

How I gloat o’er thee, decaying,
With thy tiny window swaying
In the breeze, scornfully saying,
“Thou hast been,”
Bathing machine.

Thy last sad days, what shall they be?
Sans wheels, sans steps, a box so wee,
That only fowls will roost in thee,
Just at e’en,
Bathing machine.

Can I see thee on the seashore,
Lying unused, wanted no more,
Without the sigh! Thou’rt gone before,
A thing unclean,
Oh! Bathing machine.

So it’s quite clear that when Wintzer sat upon the sand to complete this little sketch, the bathing machine was into its last phase. Which perhaps adds a sense of poignancy to Alma’s rather glamorous posture.

How do you feel about bathing machines? Can you see them making a comeback?

Richard Wintzer was a writer, composer and painter. He studied at the academies in Berlin and Leipzig and later became a portraitist for the newspaper Berliner Lokalanzeiger.

Signed/dated lower right and held within a contemporary glazed frame.

Learn more about Richard Wintzer in our directory.

Medium: Pen and ink drawing on cardboard
Overall size: 14” x 17½” / 36cm x 44cm
Year of creation: 1904
Condition: Artwork presents well. Minor foxing.

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