Between the years of 1880 and 1890, Edgar Degas composed a series of pictures, studies, and artworks of women drying themselves after a bath. While some are rough sketches with unfinished lines, pieces like After the Bath, Woman Drying Herself IV are densely worked, with several colors, layers, and in-depth details of light and shadow.
Some pieces are colorful and have a more complex palette, but this one stands out for its limited color choice, where the artist works over a yellow and orange background. The lines are energetic and very gestural. The woman is sitting on the bathtub and leans forward to dry her feet. Her back is completely arched, her head leans down, and her orange hair is locked up on in a loose ponytail that falls over the front of her face. The woman stands with her side to the observer, so it’s possible to see the shape of her backbone wholly arched.
Her silhouette is designed with a strong black line of pastel. The lines are thinner on the top of her body, while her chest, legs, and arms - which are hung down to her feet - are drawn in stronger, thicker lines. This creates a beautiful sense of light and shadow. Her arms and legs have some sketchy lines, which are painted with a darker shade of orange and a darker, almost red tone of pastel was used for the shadows. Her arm muscles are defined by white details that emulate the light that comes from the foreground of the handy work.
Her back is defined by small thin hatches in black and large white lightened areas that contrast with the orange and yellow that form her body shapes. These colors contrast creating a beautiful body shape. Her hair is an orange mass drawn with wavy lines. Behind her back, there is a white light that helps the body stand out from the background. There are some rough details on the background, but it’s perfectly possible to understand that there is a chair behind her. The bathtub where she sits is already empty, and the volume inside is represented in orange. Finally, an element that appears in several of Edgar Degas’ studies, a set of thick curtains fall from the right of the canvas. It is a profound study of these draperies, showing its folds and the roughness of the cloth.
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