Female nudes in the work of Degás

Female nudes in the work of Degás
Female nudes in the work of Degás

Throughout the history of art, many painters have defined themselves by having a unique and singular style that differentiates them from others but sometimes also their own theme that distinguishes them from others, for example if we think of Toulouse Lautrec inevitably brings to mind images of Parisian cabarets, Raphael's holy families or Murillo's Virgins. In this way, if we think of the work of the Impressionist painter Edgar Degas, we could think that his most representative theme is the dancers and although it is true that they represent a large part of his work -unlike the rest of the Impressionist painters, Degas always opted for the urban world of the Parisian capital instead of country spaces- there is a theme in his production even more numerous than the dancers, the nudes.


Hilaire-Germain-Edgar de Gas, better known by the nickname Degas, was born in 1834 into a we althy family; the artist lost his father passing to the guardianship of his grandfather. Despite the fact that at first the artist enrolled in Law at the express wish of his father, he soon understood that this was not his destiny and transferred to the Faculty of Fine Arts. At that time, realistic painting inspired by geniuses such as Ingres or David was still in vogue, so the first studies of nudes had an instructive aim, we must not forget that the nude was one ofthe most difficult subjects in the Faculty of Fine Arts.


His trip to Italy will also influence his conception of the nude as we can see in his work Jovenes Espartanas in which the artist evokes the historical past by combining it with nude figures in various postures, a fact that served to catapult his career as artist.


However, it will not be until the seventies when the artist shows himself freed from academic ties. At this time the painter focuses his attention on brothels,the figures break with academic opinions and acquire an almost pornographic dimension with explicit scenes of women whose body is nothing more than a work tool. Traces of an idle life in the Parisian nightlife can be seen in his physiognomy; It is precisely the works from this stage that connect Degas' painting with Lautrec's collections.

It is in the following decade that the artist gradually abandons the nightlife of brothels to focus on a more intimate, calm and detailed nude, the bathroom. The artist made multiple canvases, drawings and even prints under this theme of the toilet. The women of this era appear to dedicate special care to their bodies, whether drying, lathering or combing their hair… the most unlikely postures are reflected in the naked bodies of these women.women with a grace and elegance that reminds us of the dancers themselves.

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In the last stage of his production, Degas became interested in sculpture and just as he did with the dancers, his other great theme – the nude – was also reflected in works such as La mujer peinando.

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