The present work is a refined example of Edgar Degas’s late artistic production, when he concentrated almost exclusively on the depiction of dancers and women bathing. These figures had been the main subjects of Degas’ work since the 1880s, but ten years later, the artist approached them with a greater sense of freedom in the treatment of human forms. Après le bain is a naturalistic depiction of a naked woman sitting and drying her right foot after a bath. Leaving her face in the shade, the artist is not concerned with exploring her identity, but rather the form, volume and weight of her body. As in many other drawings of bathers executed in the 1890s, the human figure is here rendered with naturalism, the woman’s body outlined with graphic, dark contours. The application of parallel and cross-hatching charcoal lines generates a dynamic yet elegant sense of texture.
Théodore Duret’s words on Degas’s oeuvre perfectly apply to this image: 'He has no goddesses to offer, none of the legendary heroines of tradition, but woman as she is, occupied with her ordinary habits of life or of the toilet, exhibiting all the peculiarities – and one could say all the defects – of a body unhealthily paled by town life' (Duret, quoted in R. Kendall, exh.cat., Degas beyond Impressionism, London, 1996, p. 150). Nevertheless, despite the unembellished realism of this image, Degas has gifted his model with a sense of majesty and grace, which elevates ordinary life to an unprecedented degree of timelessness.