After the Bath, Woman Drying Herself
Throughout his career, Degas was extremely interested in portraying the female form in different capacities. Degas' earliest paintings focusing on women bathing appeared in the 1880s, and he continued to paint bathers for several decades. After the Bath, Woman Drying Herself is one of a series of works Degas produced which focus on women bathing. He also created charcoal drawings and a brown wax sculpture of this composition.
Degas wanted his portraits of bathers to appear as though the artist and or/viewer are secretly observing the subject. He wanted to capture movement and the natural appearance of the body, and to create an intimate scene.
After the Bath, Woman Drying Herself is a later painting in the bathing series; it differs from the earlier works in the series in its stronger color and more vibrant texture. The application of pastels creates an aggressive and slightly tense atmosphere. The woman in the portrait is muscular and slightly awkward. The dark outlines and shadings around her body create a certain masculine quality; with her raised arm, she bears a resemblance to classic studies of male nudes. She appears totally absorbed with the act of drying herself, Degas' goal of portraying a woman totally unaware of the artist is achieved.
While Degas claimed to be simply portraying intimate scenes with his bathers series, the works have been criticized for being misogynist, voyeuristic, and for depersonalizing women. The debate surrounding these works may contribute to the public's ongoing fascination with these interesting and controversial works.
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