This is one of many pictures Tuke painted of young boys bathing in the open air around Falmouth Harbour in Cornwall. The four boys appear unconscious of the viewer’s gaze as they enjoy the sunshine on their naked skin. Tuke celebrates the youthful ideal in this painting; the title evokes a blissful childhood without suggesting it would never end. Hindsight gives added poignancy: these boys would shortly be sent to the battlefields of the First World War.
Henry Scott Tuke
121.9 x 182.9 cm
Oil on canvas
Date of work
Original: Oil on canvas, 121.9 x 182.9 cm ® Tate, London
English painter Henry Tuke entered the Slade in 1875. While there, he won a scholarship and travelled to Italy, where he made his first nude life drawings, an important revelation to him of light, colour and the human form. Tuke later settled in Newlyn, Cornwall, and was a founder-member of the Newlyn school. He travelled throughout his life, including Corfu, Albania, Jamaica and central America. His travels and admiration of Whistler greatly influenced his work.