' Woman Ironing' early 1890s
Edgar Degas (1834-1917)
Oil on canvas, 80 x 63.5cm
Accession Number WAG 6645
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Degas painted many images of women at work. This picture is one of a series of Parisian laundresses he began in the 1870s. Laundresses were poorly paid and often associated with alcoholism and casual prostitution, Degas, however, was more interested in capturing a sense of their movement as they worked rather than making a social comment on the subject.
The woman is shown in profile, backlit by the window with her face in shadow. Harsh black outlines emphasise and strengthen her arms and back. The painting's double viewpoint looks both directly at her face and down to her board. The strong outlines and cropped figure reveal Degas' debt to Japanese prints and photography.
This painting is part of the Walker Art Gallery's permanent collection and was purchased in 1968 with the help of The Art Fund and the V&A Purchase Grant Fund.