Robert Henri was the driving force behind The Eight. His goal was to provide emerging artists with an alternative forum for exhibiting their work that was separate from the academic establishment. Henri and the other members of The Eight were devoted to portraying an unidealized view of everyday life. For Henri, this most often took place in the form of portraiture. His many sitters included his friends and family, as well as people he chose on the streets simply because something about them interested him.
Henri also devoted much of his time to studying the female nude, a practice that he started early during his career and continued through the end of his life. Four Female Bathers is a sketch created during what was a busy year for Henri. The artist had spent much time abroad in Madrid and Paris, where he was influenced by the Impressionists as well as by the Old Masters such as Diego Velázquez and Francisco de Goya whose work he saw on view at the Louvre.