Woman at her Toilette Edgar Degas Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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The artwork Woman At Her Toilette belongs to a large collection of nude female portraits done in pastels. These belong to a period at the onset of his career where the artist was experimenting with his newfound Impressionism style that differed from the realist techniques at the time.

Edgar Degas was immensely consumed with the female body throughout his artwork. As the female body represents more dynamic movement than the male, Degas adored soliciting it within his paintings. Rather than showcasing the harsh lines of landscape artwork, he preferred to illustrate the curving features of the famed body. Edgar Degas veered from the academic style of art towards the newfound abstract energy his contemporaries adored.

The artwork holds a similar style to the artist's other work, including Woman Having Her Hair Combed, Seated Bather, and After The Bath. These artworks illustrate the beauty of the nude female body in all of it’s form. The artwork uncovers the woman standing as she leans forwards towards a large bowl. Her hands are lifted above her head in a ballerina form. As her left arm is lifted above her head, her right arm is holding a sponge to wash her underarm. The woman is carefully leaning her body above the brown in order to not spill the water as she washes under her arm.

The woman's face is covered by her right arm. The viewer is only able to see a glimpse of her face and hair. The rich bland strings of her hair seems to be tied upwards into a bun. Her head is facing downwards looking towards the large bowl filled with water. Degas is brilliant as he gives the viewer the illusion of water by colouring the bowl in a lush blue colour. This allows for the viewer to connect the dots within their own head and understand that the bowl is filled with water. Rather than drawing the liquid, the artist uses colours to hint at the message he is trying to convey. Similarly, a large white jug is placed behind the bowl, coloured in shades of blue as well.

The woman's nude body is turned sideways to give the viewer a glimpse of her profile. Her curves are accentuated by the artist highlighting and contouring her body. Degas places a light source near the left of the artwork. Therefore, he lightens areas facing left, while darling the areas opposite. This is evident though the woman’s body as Degas shades her backside facing away from the light source. The light source in the painting is most likely a window near the top left of the painting. The green frame seems to resemble the outline of a window, rather than a mirror. Falling under the hips of the woman is a white ruffled dress. This gives off the illusion that the woman is undressing and washing her body with the sponge.

The artist continues to accentuate the artwork through bright shades of orange painted in his Impressionism tone. These bright colours create an immense contrast with the blues throughout the painting. Small yellow details over the table top of the counter, while green brush strokes cover the wall. It’s these minor details in a light brushstroke that being the artwork together and tell the story. The artist continues these shades of green into the woman’s sponge and the outline of the window.