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The Laundress, 1873

Edgar Degas

French, 1834-1917
Oil on canvas
9-7/8 x 7-5/8 in. (25.1 x 19.4 cm)
Norton Simon Art Foundation
© Norton Simon Art Foundation

On view

Inspired by all aspects of Parisian life, Degas was fascinated with the women who worked as laundresses. While visiting New Orleans in 1872, he wrote to a friend, "Everything is beautiful in this world of the people. But one Paris laundry girl, with bare arms, is worth it all for such a pronounced Parisian as I am." Writer Edmond de Goncourt extolled Degas' laundresses as "the most charming pretext for blonde and tender colors." Not all critics, however, appreciated these renderings: "Despite Degas' accurate and firm draftsmanship, his Laundresses will never get my business: the laundry that they are ironing is repulsively dirty" (Marius Chaumelin, 1876).

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