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Poetic private moments captured with fluid precision!

Edgar Degas’ Bathers - pastel drawing masterpieces

The Impressionist, Edgar Degas is famous for his depiction of ballet dancers. His pastel drawings of bathers are less well-known and were created for himself, not for his patrons. They were not publicly displayed and only surfaced after his death. The works display a voyeuristic view of the most private moments of women bathing – something that was seen as most private and improper for public view. The works are both intimate and honest.

After the Bath, Woman Drying Herself, 1890-95

Edgar Degas, After the Bath, Woman Drying Herself, 1890-95, National Gallery, London

This work manifests a subtle, mastery of modulated pastel colour, and tone. The works give off a seductive, soft, chalky, atmospheric quality that matches the gentle intimacy of the moment.

The quality of light depicted in the work radiate peace and tranquility. Degas mastery over the depiction of momentary qualities of light in this work is noteworthy. This drawing is as impressive as his Impressionist masterpieces of Ballet Dancers.

The Rehearsal of the Ballet Onstage, 1874

Edgar Degas, The Rehearsal of the Ballet Onstage, 1874. Metropolitan Museum of Art.

This work embodies a velvety softness. His control of soft gradations of tone is exquisite. The modalities of light and dark areas give a quiet drama to the piece and express a moody, pensive, mediative quality.

There is much value for the artist in taking a close look at the mastery of soft tone achieved in his work. His drawing style gently sculpts the form of his subject out of the flat surface of the page. A true master of this mode of drawing!

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