Woman Drying Her Hair

Edgar Degas (French, 1834-1917)
c. 1900-1908
Pastel on paper 
28 x 24-1/2 in. (71.1 x 62.2 cm) 
Credit Line:
Norton Simon Art Foundation 
Accession Number:
© Norton Simon Art Foundation 
Not on View

Degas’s late pastels of bathers drying and combing their hair are among the most sensuous—and the most bewilderingly abstract—works he ever produced. After half a century’s assiduous study (making copies of Renaissance and modern masters in his youth, producing countless life drawings of professional models, ballet dancers, and prostitutes in his maturity), Degas had come to know the contours of the nude by heart. Here those contours are engulfed by a thicket of terse, scribbling strokes, layer after layer of color, applied with an electric swiftness. These strokes lend vitality to the body they describe but also insist on the artist’s own dynamic process and on the flatness of the picture’s surface.


Edgar Degas Estate, Paris (sale, Paris, Galerie Georges Petit, 12 December 1918, lot 134, ill., as “Femme s’essuyant les cheveux,” for Fr 3,900 to);
[Durand-Ruel, Paris, stock no. 11370, sold 8 March 1958 to];
René Beck.
[?Charles Durand-Ruel, Paris, to];
[Sam Salz, New York, to];
[Reid & Lefevre, Ltd., London, offered by 9 December 1968, and subsequently sold 25 January 1969 to];
Norton Simon, Inc. Museum of Art, Los Angeles (sale, New York, Christie's, 19 May 1982, lot 15, ill., as Femme s’essuyant les cheveux, unsold);
Norton Simon Art Foundation.

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