DEGAS, Edgar
(b. 1834, Paris, d. 1917, Paris)

Woman Ironing

c. 1869
Oil on canvas, 93 x 74 cm
Neue Pinakothek, Munich

From 1865 on, the women who toiled at their ironing in the basic, steamy, hothouse rooms of the laundries featured regularly in Salon paintings. The artistic attractiveness of laundry women lay partly in the fact that they were widely perceived as loose-living, since their miserable pay forced many of them into prostitution. Not that this is apparent in Degas's earliest studies, which in 1869 resulted in an unfinished painting, Woman Ironing. It is a delicate, arresting portrait of an unknown woman seen in a fragrantly sketched setting of whites, greys and pale pinks.