Overview

Women at work provided inspiration for Degas. In addition to ballet dancers and cabaret singers, he also painted milliners and dressmakers, laundresses and ironers—such as the young woman here. Writer Edmond de Goncourt described a visit to Degas' studio when the artist showed him "washerwomen and still more washerwomen...." Degas was interested in their movements and postures, the patterns and rhythms of their work. Degas, de Goncourt continued, had gone about "speaking their language, explaining to us technically the downward pressing and circular strokes of the iron, etc...."

Laundresses also appeared as characters in newly popular realistic novels, which detailed the difficult lives of these women. They worked long, hot hours for low wages, and because they wore loose clothing and made deliveries to men's apartments, their morals were often questioned. Degas, however, seems not to have been interested in their social situation so much as in their characteristic gestures—in the line of his ironer's body as she leans into her work, in the soft curtain of color provided by the garments that hang around her, in the crisp shirt folded on the table.

Inscription

lower left: Degas

Marks and Labels

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Provenance

Jean-Baptiste Faure [1830-1914], Paris. James F. Sutton [d. 1915]; (his sale, American Art Association, New York, 25 April 1895, no. 164); purchased by Georges Durand-Ruel [1866-1931], Paris, apparently for his private collection; widow, Mme. Georges Durand-Ruel, née Margaret Tierney, Neuilly-sur-Seine, France; to her niece, Mme. Jacques Lefébure, Paris.[1] (Wildenstein and Co., New York); sold 1972 to Mr. Paul Mellon, Upperville; gift 1972 to NGA.

Exhibition History

1905
Pictures by Boudin, Cézanne, Degas, Manet, Monet, Morisot, Pissarro, Renoir, Sisley, Grafton Galleries, London, 1905, no. 68
1907
Modern French Paintings, The Manchester City Art Gallery, Manchester, England, 1907-1908, no. 176
1924
Exposition Degas au profit de la Ligue Franco-Anglo-Américaine contre le cancer: Peintures, pastels et dessins, sculptures, eaux-fortes, lithographies et monotypes, Galeries Georges Petit (sculpture shown at Galerie A.A. Hébrard), Paris, 1924, no. 68, as Repasseuse à contre-jour.
1932
Exhibition of French Art 1200-1900, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1932, no. 456
1934
Quelques oeuvres importantes de Corot à Van Gogh, Galeries Durand-Ruel, Paris, 1934, no. 8
1936
Degas 1834-1917, The Pennsylvania Museum of Art, Philadelphia, 1936, no. 39, repro.
1937
Exhibition of Masterpieces by Degas, Durand-Ruel Galleries, New York, 1937, no. 10
1940
The Four Great Impressionists: Cezanne, Degas, Renoir, Manet (Exhibition of Paintings for the Benefit of the American Friends of France), Durand-Ruel Galleries, New York, 1940, no. 7, repro.
1943
Exhibition Celebrating One Hundred Fortieth Anniversary, Durand-Ruel Galleries, New York, 1943, no. 5, repro.
1947
Degas, Durand-Ruel Galleries, New York, 1947, no. 7
1982
Loan for display with permanent collection, Munch Museum, Oslo, 1982-1983.
1986
Capolavori Impressionisti dei Musei Americani, Museo e Gallerie Nazionali di Capodimonte, Naples; Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan, 1986-1987, no. 15, repro.
1986
Gifts to the Nation: Selected Acquisitions from the Collections of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1986, unnumbered checklist
1986
Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Masterpieces from the National Gallery of Art, Washington, State Hermitage Museum, Leningrad; State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow, 1986, no. 8, repro.
1988
Degas, Grand Palais, Paris; National Gallery of Canada, Ottowa; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1988-1989
1990
Französische Impressionisten und ihre Wegbereiter aus der National Gallery of Art, Washington und dem Cincinnati Art Museum, Neue Pinakothek, Munich, 1990, no. 17, repro.
1992
From El Greco to Cézanne: Masterpieces of European Painting from the National Gallery of Art, Washington, and The Metroplitan Museum of Art, New York, National Gallery of Greece, Athens, 1992-1993, no. 59, repro.
1996
Obras Maestras de la National Gallery of Art de Washington, Museo Nacional de Antropología, Mexico City, 1996-1997, unnumbered catalogue, 166-167, color repro.
1999
An Enduring Legacy: Masterpieces from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1999-2000, no cat.
1999
Around Impressionism: French Paintings from the National Gallery of Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1999, no cat. (returned early to NGA for inclusion in An Enduring Legacy exhibition).
1999
Masterpieces from the National Gallery of Art, Washington, Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art; Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, 1999, no. 23, repro.
2005
Loan for display with permanent collection, The Kreeger Museum, Washington, D.C., 2005.
2006
Degas: o universo de um artista [Degas: The Universe of an Artist], Museu de Arte de São Paulo Assis Chateaubriand, 2006, unnumbered catalogue, repro.
2010
Picasso Looks at Degas, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts, 2010, no. 110, repro.
2011
Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Masterpieces from the National Gallery of Art, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; The National Art Center, Tokyo; Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art, 2011, no. 15, repro.

Bibliography

1975
European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 100, repro.
1984
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 483, no. 711, color repro.
1985
European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 123, repro.
1990
Französische Impressionisten und ihre Wegbereiter aus der National Gallery of Art, Washington und dem Cincinnati Art Museum, Exh. cat. Neue Pinakothek, Munich, 1990: no. 17, repro.
1991
Kopper, Philip. America's National Gallery of Art: A Gift to the Nation. New York, 1991: 277, 280, color repro.
1997
Kelder, Diane. The Great Book of French Impressionism, 1997, no. 274, repro.
1997
Southgate, M. Therese. The Art of JAMA: One Hundred Covers and Essays from The Journal of the American Medical Association. St. Louis, 1997: 106-107, color repro.

Technical Summary

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