Edgar Degas – Paris 1834-1917 Paris (ARCHIVED)

Edgar Degas - Le Bain.png
Edgar Degas - Le Bain.png

Edgar Degas – Paris 1834-1917 Paris (ARCHIVED)

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Le Bain, circa 1888

Pastel over charcoal, 35½ x 28 3/8 inches (90 x 72 cm)

In his maturity Degas progressively shed all subject matter, which was unconnected with his central obsession, the analysis of the female form. From about 1883 he embarked on an astonishing series of pastel nude studies in which the model is shown engaged in bathing and grooming herself, in the unselfconscious movements of twisting or bending, drying her body or combing her hair. This was a new realism in which the naked figure was observed passionately yet without prurience. In Le Bain a young woman has just got out of her bath. Supporting herself with one hand on the top of the screen, with the other she dries her raised knee. There’s an extreme naturalness in the pose, which we seem to witness as if by chance. As so often in these studies, the face is hidden and, like some beautiful fragment of sculpture, the figure is only partly seen. There is in Degas’ composition a powerful underlying rhythmic abstraction, a zigzag movement running down through the raised arm and the torso, back along the bath and thigh and returning through the lower arm and chair. At the same time, the whole picture vibrates with harmonies of red, orange and yellow.

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