Thinks happen

Comments and journal pages.


Edgar Degas and the nude red-headed girl

Thinks Happen
Edgar Degas, At Bath, Tub, Woman at Bath
Almost fifty years ago this print was clipped from the esteemed pages of LIFE magazine. At the time it was said to be the first and only time this Degas pastel painting had ever been seen outside of a museum. No prints had ever been authorized.

This was the only one. You couldn’t buy a print like this one anywhere. (Except of course in that LIFE magazine and there were probably a few of those around.) Consequently, for a long time, the print was a treasured possession, well framed and displayed on a prominent wall in whatever residence held the family.

It was finally released as a print and over the years much has been said about the session with the shallow tub, the red headed girl and Edgar Degas.

Aside from being executed on an exact square 27 ¼ x 27 ¼ which always attracts this mind, the geometrics of the whole piece are fascinating. It is a difficult figure to capture too. The colors are warm and full of life. The picture is quite candid. It is not a pose but a moment in this girl’s life. One has the feeling of just a glance toward a mundane event.

”Degas Pastels” (Watson-Guptil Publications, 1515 Broadway, New York, NY 10036) first published in 1967 in hardback and then in paperback 8 years later, lists the painting as belonging to the Hill-Stead Museum of Farmington, Connecticut. This would be around the time of the Life Magazine publication.

It is currently listed as being in Musée d’Orsay, Paris.

One item read recently proclaimed that there were only nine paintings (pastel drawings) as a result of the session. Over the years there seemed to be many more than that.

An investigation seemed warranted. Are there more than nine? Was the red-haired model at more than one session? Was there more than one model?
There is always the possibility that there are more like this one, never having been shown at all outside of a museum. So collecting a sample of each one would be limited to only those that have been published of course. But it seems we’ve SEEN more than nine…

First thing discovered is that there really are lots of “girl at bath” paintings and drawings from Degas. We found 90 to compare here. Maybe Degas, like Charlie Brown, had a thing for red haired girls. He did lots of pastel paintings of them; not as many as ballet dancers but many. When they get all together in one thumbnail page, the differences begin to emerge. Indeed they are not all from the same session.

Note that these comparisons and groupings disregard the suggested dating of the originals. The date is often only a broad guess, such as “1895-1898”. Also there seems to be some discrepancy from one publication to another about the dating.

The comparisons here are strictly visual, no background information is considered.

First let’s compare the panels with the deep tub showing or no tub at all.
Edgar Degas collection 01
red-haired girl
Edgar Degas, Woman at Bath,Ginger Haired girl
Edgar Degas, At Bath, Woman at Bath
Edgar Degas, At Bath, Tub, Woman at Bath, ginger hair girl

He is regarded as one of the founders of Impressionism although he preferred to be called a realist. Today, September 27, in 1917 we lost Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas. Goodbye Monsieur Degas and thanks.

This page has had hundreds of visitors. Does anyone know of a painting that should be included somewhere above? Let me know what you think.

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  • At Wednesday, August 10, 2011 4:52:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…


    Can you tell me, the date of paint from No. 76

    Thank you for trouble

    Uwe Blös

  • At Friday, August 12, 2011 8:01:00 AM, Anonymous anyjazz said…

    Sorry, I don’t know. If it is authentic, it is probably one of the early ones.

  • At Thursday, March 22, 2012 11:43:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I remember the first time I saw the heading pastel and thinking it was the best drawing in the world. 30 years later, I'm not sure I can think of any better. Thanks for the wonderful post. If there were ever an example to my students of why you shouldn't stop after one drawing of one pose, this compilation is it! (agreed re: 43-47, 79, 82. There's no real reason anyone would ever get in that pose to dry off except the whim of the artist. But they certainly inspired good drawings and paintings.).

  • At Sunday, March 25, 2012 7:51:00 PM, Blogger anyjazz said…

    Thank you very much for your kind comment.

    The top painting has been my favorite for many years too. That my post has been helpful to you and your students is very gratifying indeed. It took weeks back then to gather up the examples, group them and design the page. It was something that I wanted to see for myself originally. The post came as an afterthought.

    Truly, it was a revelation to me to see that Degas made many trials, sometimes even the same pose, to accomplish in the end, the one or two that can be called masterpiece.

    Thanks again.

  • At Tuesday, April 24, 2012 1:31:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The featured pastel has also been my favourite for many years. I first saw it in a paperback that was on of a set my husband gave me, each featuring different artists. I gave them away (and regreted it) and had searched for the print for many years - since the early 1970s. Then I went searching with Google for Degas nudes and there was your page. Thank you.
    I also like Nos. 89, 59 & 77

  • At Tuesday, April 24, 2012 6:32:00 AM, Blogger anyjazz said…

    Thank you very much for your comment. I am glad you could be reunited with an old favorite. It is an unusual pastel. Reviewing the rest of them in the series, it appears that Degas was searching for a difficult or even awkward pose. He certainly wanted his finished work to seem candid or unplanned. Thanks again for your contribution.


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