Edgar Degas

Woman at her Toilet

c.1894

Original title
Femme à sa toilette
Medium
Charcoal and pastel on paper
Dimensions
Support: 956 x 1099 mm
frame: 1130 x 1270 x 60 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by C. Frank Stoop 1933
Reference
N04711

Display caption

In contrast to conventional treatments of this subject, Degas provides little detail in this scene of a woman at her toilette. Instead, he has focused on the formal aspects of the composition. The action of the woman combing her hair is anchored within the rectangle formed by the woman's arms and the table edge. The contrast of the soft form of the active central figure and the heavily outlined shape of the immobile maid generates a visual tension and energy, which is heightened by the rich treatment of the walls and furnishings.

Gallery label, August 2004

Catalogue entry

Edgar Degas 1834-1917

N04711 Femme à sa Toilette (Woman at her Toilet) c.1894

Inscribed 'Degas' t.r.
Pastel on paper, 37 5/8 x 43 1/4 (95.5 x 110)
Bequeathed by C. Frank Stoop 1933
Prov: With Ambroise Vollard, Paris; C. Frank Stoop, London
Exh: A Collection of Drawings by Deceased Masters, Burlington Fine Arts Club, London, November 1917-March 1918 (6) as 'La Toilette', lent by Frank Stoop; French Art 1200-1900, RA, London, January-March 1932 (942); RSA, Edinburgh, April-August 1946 (161); Degas, RSA, Edinburgh, August-September 1952 (33); Tate Gallery, September-October 1952 (33)
Lit: P.A. Lemoisne, Degas et son Oeuvre (Paris 1946), No.1161, Vol.3, p.674, repr. p.675 as 'La Toilette' c.1894; Douglas Cooper, The Courtauld Collection (London 1954), p.74; Franco Russoli and Fiorella Minervino, L'Opera Completa di Degas (Milan 1970), No.1168, p.138 repr.
Repr: Ambroise Vollard, Degas (Paris 1914), pl.49 as 'Femme à sa Toilette'; Burlington Magazine, XXXI, 1917, p.190; John Rothenstein, The Tate Gallery (London 1958), p.131 in colour

Sometimes known as 'The Toilet', but reproduced by Vollard in 1914 under the title 'Woman at her Toilet'. It seems to have been developed from a closely related pastel 'Woman in a Yellow Dressing-Gown combing her Hair' (Lemoisne No.1160, 110 x 100.5cm) formerly in the collection of Mrs Lathrop Brown of La Jolla, California, in which the composition has been extended by means of a strip of paper stuck along the top. All the differences point to the Tate's picture being the later, more resolved final version. For instance, the positions of the arms have been adjusted to form a more harmonious arabesque; the Lathrop Brown pastel has a dog in the foreground whose silhouette has been changed into a pattern on the tablecloth; and the woman's dressing-gown was originally golden orange, with the background tentatively divided up into patches of different colours, whereas the dressing-gown in the Tate's work is the same greenish yellow as the wall behind, so that they blend together.

Published in:
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, p.154, reproduced p.154


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