“The painting The Bather by Prudence Heward was often critiqued for its representation of the woman’s body. For me, I remarked that the body, although depicted with “rough features,” looked like Aphrodite’s. My interpretation is purely ironic: the goddess of beauty, in a vulnerable position and folding in on herself, looks insecure in her own body. Why should we seek to alter the appearance of the emblem of beauty? With this work, I wanted to denounce the way in which bodies, in particular those belonging to women, have become fashion “accessories,” fluctuating relentlessly. The standard of beauty is a game where certain characteristics are chosen to be front and center, a game that only corporations and social media play to make profits all the while exploiting the insecurity of others.”
—Phung Duc Anne (Grade 10, Collège Jean-de-Brébeuf, Montreal, Quebec)
Portraying its female subject with unflinching honesty, The Bather (1930) was the most controversial painting in Prudence Heward’s (1896–1947) oeuvre during her lifetime, and remains a touchstone in Canadian art history.