The Bath

Object Number: 
by 1894
Painted plaster with metal armatures
Overall: 26 1/4 x 15 1/4 x 12 1/2 in. ( 66.7 x 38.7 x 31.8 cm )
inscribed: proper right side of base, "New York?" obscured by paint: "..EW"
Genre figure.
Gallery Label: 
This sculpture is a mystery in Rogers' otherwise well-documented oeuvre, since it cannot be securely dated. In the early 1890s the artist began to experience difficulties with his hands that began as uncontrollable shaking and eventually developed into a progressive paralysis. He was forced to retire in 1893. He sold the rights to his groups to William Brush, the longtime foreman of his plaster shop. The subsequent Rogers Statuette Co. was short-lived, publishing its last known catalogue in 1895. The Bath appeared in the catalogues for 1894 and 1895. The group depicts a domestic subject that is much more intimate than his other groups. Rogers' scenes from everyday life usually show children and adults either out of doors (Going for the Cows), interacting with the wider world (School Days, Weighing the Baby), or, if they are indoors, entertaining guests (The Tap on the Window, The Mock Trial). Rogers almost never showed the family in private moments. The only other exception is Playing Doctor of 1872, which depicts three of his children acting out adult roles wearing their parents' clothing. The Bath depicts a very personal moment when the family is not on public view, whether out and about or receiving guests at home. A mother gazes lovingly at two of her children, one of whom is in the tub, while the other, nearly naked with one arm out of his undershirt, assists by squeezing a sponge over his sibling's head. The group is also anomalous in its startling size: at twenty-seven inches, it is considerably taller than all of his indoor sculptures of the period except his statue of George Washington, a monument in miniature created in 1875 for the country's centennial celebrations the following year. It is unclear whether Rogers would have been physically capable of modeling a group at the time The Bath was offered to the public, so some authorities posit that this may be an earlier group that was never published. If the artist used his own wife and children as models, as he often did, the apparent ages of the mother and children would suggest a date about 1870. It may have been originally intended strictly for the family circle and not for public distribution, and perhaps Rogers felt compelled to release it decades later for financial reasons. A 1934 biography of Rogers commented that the group was criticized when it was released to the public for being "too nude," and it was quickly withdrawn. There is no contemporary evidence to support this, but the authors were in contact with some of Rogers' children, and an introductory letter from his daughter Katherine Rogers assures the reader that the authors' accounts are "in accordance with the facts and family traditions as we know them," so this may be the recollection of a family member decades later.
Wallace, David H., John Rogers, The People's Sculptor, Middleton, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1967, pp. 224, 273, 296-7. Holzer, Harold, and Farber, Joseph, "The Sculpture of John Rogers," Antiques Magazine, April 1979, pp. 756-68. Bleier, Paul and Meta, John Rogers Statuary, Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 2001, pp. 220-1.
Credit Line: 
Gift of Mr. H. Maxson Holloway
Due to ongoing research, information about this object is subject to change.
Creative: Tronvig Group