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An image of After the bath by Edgar Degas

Edgar Degas

(France 19 Jul 1834 – 27 Sep 1917)

After the bath
Alternative title:
Après le bain Femme s'essuyant
circa 1900
Media category
Materials used
charcoal on tracing paper mounted on board

73.7 x 59.8 cm sight; 94.0 x 80.0 x 7.0 cm frame

Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
Margaret Hannah Olley Art Trust 1994
Accession number
Not on display
Further information

The most gifted artists seem able to imbue drawing with the volumetric quality of sculpture. Degas was such an artist and this is just such a drawing. Seeming to explain everything essential and nothing inessential in the scene, the work is no more than a sketch, but nothing less than a masterpiece. With his colleague Manet, Degas shared the distinction of being the most academically accomplished of the artists associated with impressionism. In his drawings particularly, he sought to establish values of permanence and solidity as opposed to the more transient effects found in his painting. Here, the massive bathtub is handled with the same candour and concern for corporeal truth as the nude. In another sensibility, the conjunction of these elements would represent an erotic site. For Degas, it is merely a point of structural necessity; necessity, and therefore beauty: the bath is a plinth that prevents the model toppling. Degas's sensitivity to the forms and actions of the female body arguably mitigates against a voyeuristic or misogynist reading of his work.

Art Gallery Handbook, 1999.

Bibliography (14)

Art Gallery of New South Wales, Great gifts, great patrons: an exhibition celebrating private patronage of the Gallery, Sydney, 1994. no catalogue numbers

Anthony Bond, Body, 'Embodying the real', pg. 11-80, Sydney, 1997, 14, 130 (colour illus.). figure 144, 37

Peter Cochrane., The Sydney Morning Herald, 'The LOL who gave us all a $600,000 gift', Sydney, 28 May 1994, 3 (illus.).

Fondation Pierre Gianadda, Degas, Switzerland, 1993. 83

Renée Free, Modernism 1900-1950: prints and drawings from the collection, Sydney, 1994, (illus.). no catalogue numbers

Renée Free, The Art Gallery of New South Wales collections, 'The Western Heritage, Renaissance to Twentieth Century', pg. 108-172, Sydney, 1994, 142 (colour illus.), 141.

Charles Harrison, Painting the difference: sex and spectator in modern art, 2004, (illus.).

Bruce James, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Western Collection: Works on Paper', pg. 78-92, Sydney, 1999, 85 (illus.).

Terence Maloon, Look, 'Of Gods and Men: Drawing the figure', pg. 8-11, South Yarra, Nov 1999, 11 (colour illus.).

Terence Maloon and Peter Raissis (Editors), Michelangelo to Matisse: drawing the figure, Sydney, 1999, 183 (colour illus.). 175

Margaret Olley and Jeffrey Smart, Favourites: Margaret Olley and Jeffrey Smart selections, Sydney, 2002. NOTE: No catalogue numbers; Margaret Olley selection.

Robin Gibson Gallery, British and French Paintings Drawings & Sculpture 1895 - 1993 from Browse & Darby, Sydney, 1994, (illus.). 1

Denys Sutton, Degas, England, 1970, 60, 61 (illus). 20. This record is entered as 'Femme nue s'essuyant'.

Frank Walker, Herald Sun, 'What lies beneath 95% of gallery's art collection hidden in basement', pg. 18, Port Melbourne, 30 Dec 2007, 18.

Exhibition history (9)


British and French paintings drawings and sculpture 1895 - 1993 from Browse and Darby, Robin Gibson Gallery, Darlinghurst, 04 Mar 1994–23 Mar 1994

Modernism 1900-1950: prints and drawings from the collection, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 23 Jul 1994–25 Sep 1994

Great gifts, great patrons, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 17 Aug 1994–19 Oct 1994

Body, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 12 Sep 1997–16 Nov 1997

Michelangelo to Matisse: Drawing the figure, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 20 Nov 1999–27 Feb 2000

Favourites: Margaret Olley and Jeffrey Smart (2002), S.H. Ervin Gallery, Sydney, 12 Jan 2002–24 Feb 2002

Monet and the Impressionists, Te Papa - Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington, 14 Feb 2009–17 May 2009

European prints and drawings 1500-1900, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 30 Aug 2014–02 Nov 2014

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