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The Laundress, 1873

Edgar Degas

French, 1834-1917
Oil on canvas
9-7/8 x 7-5/8 in. (25.1 x 19.4 cm)
Norton Simon Art Foundation
M.1979.05.P
© Norton Simon Art Foundation

On view

“Yesterday I spent the whole day in the studio of a strange painter called Degas,” wrote the critic Edmond de Goncourt in February 1874. “[H]e has fallen in love with modern life, and out of all the subjects in modern life he has chosen washerwomen and ballet dancers. When you come to think of it, it’s not a bad choice. It’s a world of pink and white, of female flesh in lawn and gauze… He showed me… washerwomen and still more washerwomen… speaking their language and explaining the technicalities of the different movements in pressing and ironing.” This unusually intimate study of a young girl ironing a sheet was probably among the pictures Degas showed Goncourt. He may have included it in the first Impressionist group exhibition two months later.

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