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EDGAR DEGAS (1834-1917)
EDGAR DEGAS (1834-1917)
EDGAR DEGAS (1834-1917)
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EDGAR DEGAS (1834-1917)
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EDGAR DEGAS (1834-1917)

Femme sortant du bain

Details
EDGAR DEGAS (1834-1917)
Femme sortant du bain
signed 'Degas' (lower left)
pastel over monotype on paper laid down on board
11 3/8 x 15 3/8 in. (28.7 x 39 cm.)
Executed circa 1886-1889
Provenance
Georges Bernheim, Paris, by May 1913.
Dr George Viau, Paris, by 1919.
Winkel & Magnussen, Copenhagen, by March 1920.
Galerie Barbazanges, Paris, by March 1921.
Durand-Ruel Gallery, New York, by whom acquired from the above, on 12 March 1921.
Mrs Ruth Swift Maguire, New York, by whom acquired from the above, on 16 April 1930.
Mrs Ruth Dunbar Sherwood, New York, by descent from the above in 1949, until at least 1974.
Tom Denton, New Mexico.
Gerald P. Peters, Santa Fe, New Mexico (no. C-4294-P).
Eugene V. Thaw, New York, by whom acquired in 1983.
Mr & Mrs Thomas Gibson, London, by whom acquired from the above, on 9 February 1984.
Private collection, Japan, by whom acquired from the above.
Anonymous sale, Sotheby's, London, 7 December 1998, lot 14.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
Literature
F. Fénéon, La Revue indépendante, vol. VI, no. 15, Paris, January 1888, p. 309.
P. Lafond, Degas, vol. II, Paris, 1919, n.p. (illustrated; titled 'La sortie du bain').
G. Rivière, M. Degas, bourgeois de Paris, Paris, 1935, pp. 147 & n.p. (illustrated p. 147).
A.M. Frankfurter, ‘Twenty Important Pictures by Degas’, in The Art News, vol. 35, no. 26, New York, 27 March 1937, p. 14 (illustrated).
New York Herald Tribune, 21 March 1937, p. 7.
P.-A. Lemoisne, Degas et son oeuvre, vol. III, Peintures et pastels 1883-1908, Paris, 1947, no. 891, p. 520 (illustrated p. 521).
New York Social Register, New York, 1960, p. 682.
E.P. Janis, Degas Monotypes, Essay, Catalogue & Checklist, exh. cat., Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 1968, no. 122, n.p. (illustrated).
F. Minervino, Tout l’oeuvre peint de Degas, Paris, 1974, no. 931, p. 128 (illustrated; with incorrect dimensions).
R. Gordon & A. Forge, Degas, London, 1988, pp. 239, 260 & 278 (illustrated p. 239; dated '1886-1888' and with incorrect medium).
R. Thomson, Degas: The Nudes, London, 1988, pp. 82, 84, 132, 134 & 235 (illustrated pp. 85 & 132; dated 'circa 1885-1888').
Exhibited
Paris, Galerie Bassoud et Valadon, January 1888 (no cat).
Stockholm, Nationalmuseum, Foreningen Fransk Kunst, Degas, January - February 1920, no. 27; this exhibition later travelled to Copenhagen, Ny Carlsberg Glyptoteks, March - April 1920, no. 27, p. 17.
New York, Durand-Ruel Gallery, Exhibition of Paintings and Pastels by Edgar Degas, March 1922, no. 9, n.p..
New York, Durand-Ruel Gallery, Exhibition of Pastels, April 1923, no. 10.
New York, Durand-Ruel Gallery, Exhibition of Paintings and Pastels by Edgar Degas, January - February 1928, no. 7, n.p. (dated '1884').
New York, Durand-Ruel Gallery, Exhibition of Masterpieces by Degas, March - April 1937, no. 6 (illustrated).
New York, Wildenstein & Co., A Loan Exhibition of Degas for the Benefit of the New York Infirmary, April - May 1949, no. 76.
New York, Wildenstein & Co., Loan Exhibition: Degas, for the benefit of The Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York, Inc. April - May 1960, no. 68a, n.p..
Paris, Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, Degas, February - May 1988, no. 250, pp. 387, 411 & 417-419 (illustrated p. 418; dated 'circa 1886-1888' and with incorrect medium); this exhibition later travelled to Ottawa, National Gallery of Canada, June - August 1988; and New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, September 1988 - January 1989.
Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, Degas and the Nude, October 2011 - February 2012, no. 163, pp. 153, 155 & 227 (illustrated p. 154); this exhibition later travelled to Paris, Musée d'Orsay, March - July 2012.
Special Notice

These lots have been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.
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Brought to you by

Keith Gill
Keith Gill Head of Evening Sale

Lot essay

Among the pastels Edgar Degas chose to exhibit at the final Impressionist exhibition of 1886 were ten works which marked the debut of his domestic bathers theme – ‘Suite de nuds [sic] de femmes se baignant, se lavant, se séchant, s’essuyant …’ (‘Suite of nudes of women bathing, washing, drying themselves …’). Fusing tradition with innovation, these scenes of the female nude àsa toilette were deemed scandalous by many contemporary viewers. While painting a bather as the mythical Diana or the biblical Susanna was perfectly acceptable in the official Salon, as Degas remarked to his dealer Ambroise Vollard, ‘a woman undressing, never!’ (quoted in A. Vollard, Degas: An Intimate Portrait, New York, 1937, p. 48). Instead, freed from literary or mythological associations and separated from an easily legible societal context, Degas’s nude bathers presented a radical new vision of the female body. As the art critic Théodore Duret wrote, with these compositions the artist ‘[had] found new situations for the nude, in interiors, among rich fabrics and cushioned furniture. 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 toilette…’ (quoted in R. Kendall, ed., Degas By Himself: Drawings,Prints,Paintings, Writings, London, 1987, p. 150). 

image
Edgar Degas, Femme dans son bain s’épongeant la jambe, circa 1883. Musée d’Orsay, Paris. Photo: © Bridgeman Images.

Created circa 1886-1889, Femme sortant du bain is an elegant example of this bold new motif within Degas’s oeuvre, executed in a shimmering array of colourful pastels. One of the most notable elements of Degas’s bathers from this period was his preference for the less premeditated movements of his female subjects as they went about their daily activities, focusing his eye on the private moments of personal care and everyday rituals that marked their lives. Here, the woman’s body is filled with a palpable inner tension, her muscles held taut as she finishes her bath and reaches over the edge of the tub for her peignoir or robe, crouching slightly at the knees as she holds herself steady. Bright sunlight falls through the window on the left, creating a delicate play of light and shade along the length of her body, its rays highlighting the golden tones of her hair gathered in a loose knot atop her head, the soft curves of her thighs, and the lean muscles of her arms. The emphasis of the pose lies in the sensuous expanse of her back as it catches the light, its gently curving lines fully exposed to our eyes by her movement, which Degas further accentuates by adopting a slightly elevated vantage point.

image
Pablo Picasso, Le Tub, 1901. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Artwork: © Succession Picasso/DACS, London 2021. Photo: © Framed Art / Alamy Stock Photo.

Hitherto the nude has always been represented in poses which presuppose an audience, these women of mine are honest, simple folk, unconcerned by any other interests than those involved in their physical condition... It is as if you looked through the keyhole”

Edgar Degas

Degas had first explored this particular scene in a dark-field monotype print, a process he had experimented with extensively through the 1870s, revelling in the spontaneous play of light and shadow it conjured. Created by applying black, greasy ink to the surface of a polished metal plate, using brushes or sometimes fingers to add and subtract tone, monochrome compositions were then printed by laying a sheet of paper on the inked plate and applying pressure to the surface via a printing press. Degas would often then generate a second impression by running another piece of paper through immediately afterwards, creating a paler image with the remaining ink, which he would later rework using charcoal or pastels, as in the present Femme sortant du bain. In this later version of the scene, Degas took the opportunity to analyse and correct the anatomy of the rounder feminine figure seen in the original monotype, refining the woman’s proportions and imbuing her svelte form with a greater sense of grace. Her torso is lengthened and straightened, the sharp points of her elbows more prominently emphasised as they move to pick up the robe, while her legs are brought together and bent slightly at the knees, allowing the figure a greater sense of balance and control as she reaches beyond the edge of the tub.

image
The present lot (detail).

These subtle adjustments reveal the intensity with which Degas was studying the human figure during this period. Indeed, though inherently more intimate than the images of ballerinas he was working on concurrently, Degas’s nude bathers offered a similar opportunity to investigate the intricacies and nuances of the body in movement. Despite his claims that his pictures appeared to be seen as through a keyhole, like stolen glimpses, the artist was also more than willing to confess that his paintings, pastels and drawings were an act of deliberate artifice, created using models who posed for hours in his prop-filled studio. The pastel also offers more details of the interior space in which the scene takes place than the dark, mysterious surroundings of the earlier monotype, with the artist adding a frame to the mirror behind his model, altering the profile of the simple chair, and increasing the sense of depth within the room. However, it is in Degas’s use of colour that Femme sortant du bain is truly transformed, its bright hues and bold facture revealing the artist’s growing mastery of the pastel medium. The wallpaper becomes a riot of different hues, filled with elongated parallel strokes of orange, bright pinks and cool blues, which shift and change tone in the falling light, their bright hues reflected in the rippling surface of the bath water. Similarly, the woman’s body is imbued with a luminosity and warmth by the delicate play of peach tones across her skin, the dynamic strokes of pigment adding a rich sense of texture to her form.

Femme sortant du bain was one of nine nudes exhibited by Degas at Boussod et Valadon on the boulevard Montmartre in early 1888, then managed by Theo van Gogh. In his review of the small show, Felix Fénéon discussed the effect of Femme sortant du bain: ‘already standing up to get out of the bath, another, with yellow-golden hair, stretches out to grab a dressing gown, while the lapping water reflect the red walls, green shadows in her groin…’ (quoted in R. Thomson, Degas: The Nudes, London, 1988, p. 132). The pastel also featured in a suite of sketches by Paul Gauguin, most likely created during a visit to the exhibition. A leading disciple of Degas’s in the 1880s, Gauguin was intimately familiar with the artist’s work of the period, and chose to emphasise the poise and energy of the figure in the present work in his sketches, focusing on the straight line of the woman’s spine as she lifts the robe, and the fall of light and shadow across her form. Degas himself would signal the success of Femme sortant du bain by choosing it as one of just fifteen compositions from his entire oeuvre to be included in an important suite of prints published in 1889. Produced in close collaboration with the renowned British lithographer G.W. Thornley, these were the only reproductions of his works that Degas sanctioned in his lifetime.

Lot Essay Header Image: The present lot illustarted (detail).

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