Edgar Degas

Woman in a Tub

c.1883

Original title
Femme au tub
Medium
Pastel on paper
Dimensions
Support: 700 x 700 mm
frame: 945 x 945 x 10 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Bequeathed by Mrs A.F. Kessler 1983
Reference
T03563

Display caption

This pastel is one of the most delicately executed and finely resolved of all Degas' studies of the nude. It belongs to a celebrated series of pastels of women at their toilette produced in the mid-1880s, a group of which was included in an exhibition of Impressionist painters in Paris in 1886. Critics varied in their reactions to these works. Some praised the way Degas showed plausible, modern women rather than idealized goddesses. Others complained of the models' ugliness and suggested they were prostitutes. In this pastel, however, there are no indications of the woman's social class or line of work.

Gallery label, August 2004

Catalogue entry

T03563 Woman in a Tub c.1883

Pastel on paper 27 1/2 × 27 1/2 (700 × 700)
Inscribed ‘Degas’ t.r.
Bequeathed by Mrs A.F. Kessler 1983
Prov: Henri Lerolle, Paris; Arthur Tooth & Sons; Mrs Kessler 1938
Exh: Degas, Orangerie des Tuileries, Paris, March–April 1937 (119, as ‘Femme au Tub’ c.1883); La Flèche d'Or, Arthur Tooth & Sons, November 1938 (29); The Kessler Collection, Wildenstein Gallery, October–November 1948 (4); Degas, Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh, August–September 1952 (19); Degas, Tate Gallery, September–October 1952 (19); Edgar Degas 1834–1917, Lefevre Gallery, June–July 1970 (7, repr.); Post-Impressionism: Cross-Currents in European Painting, Royal Academy, November 1979–March 1980 (62, repr.); The Kessler Bequest, Tate Gallery, February–April 1984 (not numbered, repr. in col.)
Lit: P.A. Lemoisne, Degas et son Oeuvre, Paris, 1946, III, no.738, p.420, repr. p.421 as ‘Femme au Tub’ c.1883; Franco Russoli and Fiorella Minervino, L'Opera Completa di Degas, Milan, 1970, no.885, p.126, repr.

Degas's exhibits at the 8th Impressionist Exhibition of 1886 included ten pastels of female nudes ‘bathing, washing, drying, wiping themselves, combing their hair or having it combed’, and this became one of his favourite themes from then on. This picture, with its carefully modelled forms set in space and relatively great amount of detail, is one of the earliest. However Degas took up this particular pose again many years later, about 1898, in another pastel (Lemoisne no.1335) in which the woman is kneeling on a towel instead of in a tub and is executed in the much more summary, blurred and relief-like manner characteristic of his later style.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1982-84: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1986