Linocut, 1992, from a series of 85

A Splash in the Pant by Richard Bawden (b. 1936) portrays Edward and Charlotte Bawden and Eric and Tirzah Ravilious taking a dip on a summer’s day in the river near Great Bardfield and the incident passed into the folklore of both families. Brick House, which can be seen in the distance beyond the cows and rows of corn stacks, was family home to the Bawdens for nearly 40 years, shared briefly in the 1930s with Mr and Mrs Ravilious. Their activities are observed with interest by cows and ducks; the ubiquitous Richard Bawden cat and a grey heron are more ambivalent.

The idyllic scene is countered by the presence of the barbed wire, lowering skies and, amusingly, by the local policeman, Sergeant Baker, who lived in the police station next to Brick House, choosing to turn a blind eye to what he had seen.

The habit of discreet naked bathing enjoyed a resurgence from Victorian times; Oxford’s River Cherwell had segregated naked bathing spots, Parson’s Pleasure for the men and Dame’s Delight for the ladies, until late in the 1900s. Today, wild swimming is a popular activity in rivers, lakes and coves up and down the country, enjoyed as an exciting and therapeutic pastime. The absence of a bathing costume seems not to be a pre-requisite, however.

Purchased by the Fry Art Gallery Society.

If you would like to suggest a Work of the Week, please email us