Whether the participants were Dutch country boys of the 17th century or city urchins of the early 20th century, a summer sport that once attracted devotees was swimming au naturel in the local waterway. But, like some other simple delights, it has vanished from the modern scene. Only a few paintings remind of such a casual era. Holland's lads (above, right), painted by an unknown Dutch artist in the 1600s, plunged off a small boat into their canals, while a boisterous and scraggly group of lively New York City youngsters (above), painted 300 years later by George Bellows, happily dived into the murky coolness of the East River. No lily-floating pool was ever more inviting to an enthusiastic water nymph. Bellows painted this scene, one of many he did of urban life, in 1907 when he was 25. It was the first painting he sold at the start of a brilliant career which ended tragically with his early death in 1925. The "Kids" is now in the permanent collection of the Corcoran Art Gallery in Washington, D.C. The Dutch picture hangs in the Louvre in Paris.
In the 20th century George Bellows painted this spirited summer scene on the banks of the East River in New York.
"THE SWIMMING PARTY"
In the 17th century an unknown Dutch artist recorded this tableau of Holland's young sprouts taking a swim in a canal.