Degas: Woman Combing Her Hair


Edgar Degas (1834-1917): Woman Combing Her Hair


Pastel on paper | 53 x 69 cm | C. 1895-1900

Looking at Degas’ pictures of women at their toilette, the observer has a feeling of being admitted to a private world. But at the same time there is often a distance built into the picture because of the viewpoint and framing. In this picture we look into a woman’s intimate boudoir and at the same time are kept at a distance. The woman is seen from above, a chair blocks the path, and her face is unclear in the mirror on the wall. These are all effects that create a charged atmosphere of both presence and absence, and which point to the observer’s fundamentally voyeuristic position in relation to the picture. This is a theme to which Degas returns again and again in his pictures of women.


Degas stood out as one of the most important artists of early Modernism. He had a special position in the group of Impressionists because of his striking, radical painting method. In particular his unique way of framing the motifs and the almost voyeuristic observations of life around him are remarkable. Central to his work too is his pioneering exploration of the potential of pastel technique, monotype, sculpture and photography.

Motifs: Portraits, history paintings, “modern life”, ballerinas, washerwomen, women at their dressing table and racehorses.


Read more about Degas at the Musée d’Orsay’s website.

Degas Toilettet
French Collection