Lot 35
  • 35

Edgar Degas

Estimate
5,000,000 - 7,000,000 USD
Sold
bidding is closed

Description

  • Edgar Degas
  • Après le bain (Femme s'essuyant les cheveux)
  • Stamped Degas (lower left)
  • Pastel and chalk on paper laid down on board
  • 33 7/8 by 29 1/4 in.
  • 86 by 74.2 cm

Provenance

Atelier Edgar Degas (sold: Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, 1ère vente, May 6-8, 1918, lot 282)

Galerie Durand-Ruel, Paris (acquired at the above sale)

Durand-Ruel Galleries, New York (acquired from the above in November 1921)

Sam Salz, Inc., New York (acquired from the above on November 9, 1943 and sold: Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, January 17-18, 1945, lot 165)

Private Collection, Switzerland (acquired at the above sale)

Private Collection (by descent from the above and sold: Christie's, New York, November 8, 2000, lot 23)

Acquired at the above sale

Exhibited

Paris, Grand Palais; Ottawa, National Gallery of Canada & New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Degas, 1988-89, no. 383, illustrated in color in the catalogue (dated circa 1905)

Literature

Paul A. Lemoisne, Degas et son oeuvre, Paris, 1946, vol. III, no. 1424, illustrated, p. 817

Nicholas Wadley, Impressionist and Post Impressionist Drawing, London, 1991, no. 16, illustrated in color, p. 114

Jean Sutherland Boggs & Anne Maheux, Degas Pastels, New York, 1992,  no. 64, illustrated in color, p. 167 (dated circa 1905)

Degas: Beyond Impressionism (exhibition catalogue), National Gallery of Art, London & The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, 1996-97, illustrated in color p. 148 (dated circa 1900-10)

Catalogue Note

Après le bain is a striking example of Edgar Degas' fascination with the female nude. The remarkable range of rich, vibrant tones and the beautifully balanced and proportioned treatment of the woman’s body rank this among the most accomplished examples of the artist’s celebrated series of bathers. As in his portrayals of ballet dancers, Degas preferred to capture his models in a private moment, when they appear fully absorbed in their activity, completely unaware of being observed. The sense of privacy is amplified by the artist's preferred viewpoint, depicting his subject from the back, her face hidden by her raised arm.

Unlike his depictions of the ballet and the races, the bather scenes were usually staged in the artist’s studio since he could not otherwise observe this intimate ritual. Nevertheless, Après le bain recreates the spontaneity of the act and the voyeuristic experience of watching a woman at her toilette. Georges Jeanniot, who had witnessed Degas at work on his pastels, reminisced about his technique: “Degas was very concerned with the accuracy of movements and postures. He studied them endlessly. I have seen him work with a model, trying to make her assume the gestures of a woman drying herself…. You see the two shoulderblades from behind; but the right shoulder, squeezed by the weight of the body, assumes an unexpected outline that suggests a kind of acrobatic gesture, a violent effort” (quoted in R. Gordon & A. Forge, Degas, New York, 1988, p. 223). Indeed, the artist often applied his knowledge of the female body, attained through observing dancers, on his images of bathers, and in the present work he depicted his model with an almost balletic twist of her upper body.

The extraordinary energy and modern quality of the present work are derived from the highly abstracted treatment of the surface, blending the fabric of the wall-paper, curtains, robes and towels into a continuous decorative pattern. In his pastels of the 1890s and early 1900s, Degas' focus moved away from the linear, towards a new interest in a bright palette, and the present work is a magnificent example of his new found freedom of expression, allowing the artist to transform an everyday scene into a firework of strong, bright colors. Writing about the coloration of the present work, Jean Sutherland Boggs and Anne Maheux stated: “The high-key colors that Degas has chosen for the patterned background virtually reverberate on the sheet. A brilliant orange unites the composition, traveling through each element in an array of strokes: applied in broad background swirls, thickly scrawled over the chaise longue in the foreground and laid down in parallel hatchings over the warm green shadows of the bather’s figure. And finally, short thin strokes of golden yellow bounce off the wall in a pyrotechnic performance, uniting dazzling colour and the calligraphic strokes of pastel” (J. Sutherland Boggs & A. Maheux, Op. cit., p. 166).

For all their daring modernity and the often shocking effects they had on their contemporary nineteenth-century audience, Degas’ images of bathers were greatly admired at the time. The early critic J. K. Huysmans discussed the series of bather pastels: “What we may see in these works is the unforgettable veracity of these types, captured with a deep-seated and ample draughtsmanship, with a lucid and controlled passion, as though with a cold fever; what is to be seen is the ardent and subtle coloring, the mysterious and opulent tone of these scenes; the supreme beauty of this flesh tinted pink or blue by water, illuminated by windows hung with gauze in dim rooms” (quoted in ibid., p. 231).

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