Art: Lady of the Lake

The girl was a slender French blonde, and only 16. That summer of 1910, when the mornings were warm and clear, she would go down to the shores of Lake Annecy in the French Upper Savoy near Switzerland. With her was a bearded painter from Paris named Paul Chabas. At 8:30 a.m. she would slip out of her clothes and step into the chill water. The first time, she drew her body into an instinctive pose of protection against the cold. "Don't move!" cried the enchanted painter.

Artist Chabas, an established academician, worked slowly. His...

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