In his memoir My Life in Sculpture, Lipchitz singled out Baigneuse assise, 1916, as representing “an important change and development in my cubism... It marked a new phase symptomatic of the free-standing cubist sculptures I did between 1916 and the early 1920s” (op. cit., 1972, p. 42). Baigneuse assise inaugurated the sculptor’s fully mature, high cubist period, an early peak phase in a career that was then only five years old–Lipchitz had just turned twenty-five.
During the previous year, Lipchitz's friendship with Picasso inspired him to convert entirely to cubism in his work. In a flush of enthusiasm, Lipchitz quickly went on to create sculptures that displayed a rigorously architectural interpretation of synthetic cubist syntax, emphasizing extreme verticality and layered rectangular planes. The resultant constructed sculptures had the appearance of mechanical devices, and their rising, elongated forms reminded some of Gothic cathedrals. “I carried my findings all the way to abstraction,” Lipchitz wrote. He was worried, however, that “I had lost the sense of the subject, of its humanity,” he said. “I had gone too far.” Such was the state of his concern that during the summer of 1915 the sculptor experienced “a kind of emotional crisis...I felt for a time I had lost my way” (ibid., p. 26).
At this juncture Lipchitz’s material circumstances fortuitously improved, easing his distress. Léonce Rosenberg had stepped into the vacuum left when Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, the cubists’ chief dealer, was forced as a German national to leave France at the beginning of the First World War. Rosenberg made sales arrangements with many of the cubists for his own Galerie de l’Effort Moderne. Lipchitz signed a contract with Rosenberg in early 1916; under its terms the sculptor received a monthly stipend of 300 francs and had his expenses covered, for which he turned over to Rosenberg everything he made. Although Lipchitz was still in debt, his day-to-day financial worries were over. He could now afford to carve in marble and cast in bronze. Lipchitz’s newfound security during the difficult wartime period and renewed self-confidence in his work are reflected in the great series of cubist figures he then undertook, which occupied him until the end of the decade. Musicians served as his male theme; the bather became his chief female subject.
"The Seated Bather...was finished first in stone and later cast in bronze, as was the case with most of the works of this period,” Lipchitz later recalled. “The figure here is treated even more massively than the two earlier works [Man with Guitar, 1915 and Man with Mandoline, 1916; Wilkinson, nos. 42 and 53, respectively]. Although it is extremely compact, there is a greater use of twisting diagonals and curvilinear forms suggesting a three-dimensional spiraling of the figure on an axis. Here I began to abandon that rigid vertical-horizontal aspect that marked the works of the preceding years... It is also true, I think, that the Seated Bather as a figure takes on a greater human presence. While it is still in every way an organization of plastic masses and volumes, the sense of humanity gives it a specific personality, a brooding quality emphasized by the shadowed face framed in the heavy, hanging locks of the hair. In this work I think I clearly achieved the kind of poetry which I felt to be essential in the total impact... When I finished the Seated Bather, I realized and was excited by the significance of the new departure, the new syntax of forms” (ibid., pp. 42 and 45).