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Woman Drying Her Hair, c. 1900-1908

Edgar Degas

French, 1834-1917
Pastel on paper
28-1/8 x 24-3/4 in. (71.4 x 62.9 cm)
Norton Simon Art Foundation
© Norton Simon Art Foundation

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.

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