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.
lower left: Degas
Marks and Labels
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. (Wildenstein and Co., New York); sold 1972 to Mr. Paul Mellon, Upperville; gift 1972 to NGA.
- Pictures by Boudin, Cézanne, Degas, Manet, Monet, Morisot, Pissarro, Renoir, Sisley, Grafton Galleries, London, 1905, no. 68
- Modern French Paintings, The Manchester City Art Gallery, Manchester, England, 1907-1908, no. 176
- 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.
- Exhibition of French Art 1200-1900, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1932, no. 456
- Quelques oeuvres importantes de Corot à Van Gogh, Galeries Durand-Ruel, Paris, 1934, no. 8
- Degas 1834-1917, The Pennsylvania Museum of Art, Philadelphia, 1936, no. 39, repro.
- Exhibition of Masterpieces by Degas, Durand-Ruel Galleries, New York, 1937, no. 10
- 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.
- Exhibition Celebrating One Hundred Fortieth Anniversary, Durand-Ruel Galleries, New York, 1943, no. 5, repro.
- Degas, Durand-Ruel Galleries, New York, 1947, no. 7
- Loan for display with permanent collection, Munch Museum, Oslo, 1982-1983.
- Capolavori Impressionisti dei Musei Americani, Museo e Gallerie Nazionali di Capodimonte, Naples; Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan, 1986-1987, no. 15, repro.
- Gifts to the Nation: Selected Acquisitions from the Collections of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1986, unnumbered checklist
- 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.
- Degas, Grand Palais, Paris; National Gallery of Canada, Ottowa; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1988-1989
- Französische Impressionisten und ihre Wegbereiter aus der National Gallery of Art, Washington und dem Cincinnati Art Museum, Neue Pinakothek, Munich, 1990, no. 17, repro.
- 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.
- Obras Maestras de la National Gallery of Art de Washington, Museo Nacional de Antropología, Mexico City, 1996-1997, unnumbered catalogue, 166-167, color repro.
- An Enduring Legacy: Masterpieces from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1999-2000, no cat.
- 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).
- Masterpieces from the National Gallery of Art, Washington, Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art; Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, 1999, no. 23, repro.
- Loan for display with permanent collection, The Kreeger Museum, Washington, D.C., 2005.
- Degas: o universo de um artista [Degas: The Universe of an Artist], Museu de Arte de São Paulo Assis Chateaubriand, 2006, unnumbered catalogue, repro.
- Picasso Looks at Degas, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts, 2010, no. 110, repro.
- 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.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 100, repro.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 483, no. 711, color repro.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 123, repro.
- 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.
- Kopper, Philip. America's National Gallery of Art: A Gift to the Nation. New York, 1991: 277, 280, color repro.
- Kelder, Diane. The Great Book of French Impressionism, 1997, no. 274, repro.
- 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.
- Lipiński, Filip. Hopper wirtualny: Obrazy w pamiętającym spojrzeniu. Ph.D. diss. Uniwersytet Adam Mickiewicz, Poznań, 2013. Toruń, 2013: 257, 516, 578, color fig. 43.