Edgar Degas (1834-1917)
Edgar Degas (1834-1917)
Edgar Degas (1834-1917)
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Edgar Degas (1834-1917)

Après le bain

Edgar Degas (1834-1917)
Après le bain
stamped with signature 'Degas' (Lugt 658; lower left)
pastel counterproof heightened with pastel on paper
19 x 16 in. (48.2 x 40.5 cm.)
Executed circa 1898
Estate of the artist; Fourth sale, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, July 2-4, 1919, lot 314.
Ernest Rouart, Paris (by 1942).
Julie Manet, Paris (by descent from the above).
Charles E. Slatkin Galleries, New York.
David Daniels, New York (acquired from the above, March 1960); sale, Christie's, New York, 11 May 1995, lot 319.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
P.-A. Lemoisne, Degas et son oeuvre, Paris, 1946, vol. III, p. 764, no. 1310ter (illustrated, p. 765).
New York, Charles E. Slatkin Galleries, Renoir, Degas: Sculptures and Drawings, October-November 1958 (illustrated, pl. 13).
New York, Wildenstein & Co. Inc., Degas, April-May 1960, no. 101.
Minneapolis Institute of Art, Drawings, Paintings & Sculpture from Three Private Collections, July-August 1960, no. 19.
The Minneapolis Institute of Art; The Art Institute of Chicago; Kansas City, Missouri, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art; Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University, Fogg Art Museum; and Waterville, Maine, Colby College Art Museum, Selections from the Drawing Collection of David Daniels, February 1968-February 1969, no. 56 (illustrated; dated circa 1890-1900).
San Jose Museum of Art, Edgar Degas and Mary Cassatt, October-December 1981, no. 69 (illustrated).

Lot Essay

Degas was fascinated by the idea of producing unorthodox hybrids. He was both deeply wedded to tradition and in love with experimentation and new technology, using innovative techniques to create transfer lithographs, monotypes and counterproofs. The present work is one of three counterproofs he produced from the pastel Femme au bain (Lemoisne, no. 1310). He first transferred the original pastel to another sheet by passing it through a printing press face down on a blank piece of paper. The resulting image was heightened with pastel before being passed through the press again, possibly more than once. This, the final iteration, was once again heightened with pastel.
In the sequence of counterproofs based on Femme au bain Degas explored different possibilities inherent in the original composition. Degas reworked the present counterproof with pastel to a greater extent than in the other two versions and enlarged and deepened the space surrounding the bather. He extended the drapery and the towel above the figure and defined more clearly the outlines of the tub against the floor. While these adjustments contribute to a more precise rendering of the figure in space, the artist sustains the atmospheric effect of light filtering through the room by contrasting the vibrant hues of his pastels with the whiteness of the sheet.
This complex, multilayered work deliberately obscures the method by which it was produced. Only Degas’ closest friends were aware of this aspect of his studio practice, and fewer still were ever admitted to his atelier to view his experiments, or essais, as he called them. Even the sales after his death shed little light on this aspect of his career—many of his impressions as they were called (such as the present work) were bundled together in large lots, to be bought by dealers and subsequently disappear from view once again.
In contrast to his oil portraits of women, in which the faces are clearly delineated, and the sitters frequently identifiable, these late images of bathers show anonymous women bathing, washing and drying themselves. They are depictions which forgo traditional depictions of the feminine ideal to concentrate on the sheer physicality of the human form. While such depictions offended contemporary sensibilities, these reactions were conditioned by the fashion for nudes to be shown in titillating poses, coyly aware of being on display. Degas’ aim was instead to show women, and by extension humanity, as it exists out of the public eye. The women should appear, in his famous phrase, as if they were being seen “through a keyhole.” In so doing, Degas did nothing less than rescue the nude as a legitimate subject for art in the 20th century.

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