OIL PAINTING: The Bath of Venus, 1898
The Bath of Venus preoccupied Shannon for several years, as attested by the number of studies he produced in relation to the picture and the existence of another painted version of the subject at the Watts Gallery (dated 1903). This painting was shown at the exhibition of Works by Irish Artists at the Guildhall in rg04 under its original title The Marble Green Bath, recalling the artist's Stone Bath series of lithographs of 1895-7.
The painting is conceived in an eclectic Spirit, synthesizing past features such as the Eyckian mirror and Antique torso, with allusions to the contemporary work of Burne-Jones, Rossetti and Watts. Indeed, it was to the latter that Shannon was particularly indebted for the blend of classical form and voluptuous Venetian beauty: like Watts he was pursuing a transhistoric affinity between different yet complementary indices of beauty.
Shannon frequently painted the female nude in water. The play of light across a variety of reflecting surfaces heightens the sensuality of the subject and this mood of languor is reinforced by the echoing rhythms of the heavy drapes and abundant flowing red hair (loose hair being associated explicitly with the secrecy of the bathroom and bedroom). The framing walls of the bath, together with the enclosed forms of the pool, rose, pot and mirror, function as metaphors for containment and contemplative reflection, intensifying the overall suggestion of private, auto-erotic pleasure.