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Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas, After the Bath, Woman drying herself

Key facts
Full title After the Bath, Woman drying herself
Artist Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas
Artist dates 1834 - 1917
Date made about 1890-5
Medium and support Pastel on wove paper laid on millboard
Dimensions 103.5 × 98.5 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1959
Inventory number NG6295
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
After the Bath, Woman drying herself
Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas

A woman sits beside a bath, drying her hair. She pitches forward, one arm raised to rub the towel on her neck, the other reaching back awkwardly, perhaps to steady herself or perhaps to grasp the towel on the back of the chair. The ungainly but authentic-looking pose makes it easy to believe that Degas was present in the woman’s room, catching her before she could straighten herself. She was actually a model posing in his studio, and would have held the position for some time while Degas made the preliminary drawing.

Degas started to use pastels after 1880, and in the mid-1880s he used these for a series of nudes. Far from the classical nudes of ancient Greece and Rome, Degas depicted real women engaged in the everyday activities of washing or bathing. This was a deliberate attack on tradition. He wrote: ‘hitherto the nude has always been represented in poses which presuppose an audience, but these women of mine are honest and simple folk… It is as if you looked through a keyhole.'

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