This painting depicts a subject visible from Daumier’s studio on the quai d'Anjou in Paris: laundresses returning from laundry boats moored on the Seine. Despite the weight of her bulky load, the woman tenderly extends her hand to help a child up the steps of the embankment. With her sturdy form silhouetted against a bright background, the humble worker acquires a certain monumentality. This picture is the largest and possibly the last of three painted versions of the composition; Daumier’s pigments have deteriorated, obscuring the last digit of the date inscribed at the lower left, but in 1893 it was recorded as 1863.
Inscription: Signed and dated (lower left): h. Daumier / 186[3?]
Adolphe-Victor Geoffroy-Dechaume, Valmondois (by 1878–d. 1892; his estate sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, April 14–15, 1893, no. 24, as "Sortie du bateau à lessive," for Fr 5,400); Paul Gallimard, Paris (by 1900–probably 1926; sold to Hodebert); [Hodebert, Paris, 1926/27]; [?Alex Reid and Lefevre, London, 1927]; [Knoedler, London and New York, 1927; sold to Bliss]; Lizzie (Lillie) P. Bliss, New York (1927–d. 1931; bequeathed to Museum of Modern Art); Museum of Modern Art, New York (1931–47; transferred on September 15, 1947 to MMA)
Paris. Galeries Durand-Ruel. "Daumier," April 17–June 15, 1878, no. 37 (as "Sortie du bateau à lessive," lent by M. Geoffroy-Dechaume).
Paris. Exposition Internationale Universelle. "Exposition Centennale de l'art français (1800–1889)," May–November 1900, no. 180 (as "Femme remontant du lavoir aux quais de la Seine," lent by M. Gallimard).
Paris. Palais de l'École des Beaux-Arts. "Exposition Daumier," May 1901, no. 42 (as "Le Linge," lent by Gallimard).
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. "The Masterpieces of French Painting from The Metropolitan Museum of Art: 1800–1920," February 4–May 6, 2007, no. 18.
Berlin. Neue Nationalgalerie. "Französische Meisterwerke des 19. Jahrhunderts aus dem Metropolitan Museum of Art," June 1–October 7, 2007, unnumbered cat.
London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Daumier (1808–1879): Visions of Paris," October 26, 2013–October 26, 2014, no. 43 (dated 1861–63).
Duranty. "Daumier (2e et dernier article)." Gazette des beaux-arts, 2nd ser., 17 (June 1878), pp. 538, 544, states erroneously that the painting then belonging to Geoffroy-Dechaume (ours) was exhibited at the Salon of 1861.
G. Puissant. "Exposition de l'œuvre de Daumier." La Lanterne (April 20, 1878), p. 2.
Arsène Alexandre. Honoré Daumier: L'Homme et l'œuvre. Paris, 1888, pp. 352, 375, calls it "Sortie du bâteau à lessive".
Julius Meier-Graefe. Entwicklungsgeschichte der Modernen Kunst. Stuttgart, 1904, vol. 1, p. 97, states that of the three or four versions of the composition, this painting is the most finished, citing the clarity of the buildings in the background.
Erich Klossowski. Honoré Daumier. Munich, 1908, pp. 98–99, , no. 224, pl. 55.
Léon Rosenthal. Daumier. Paris, , pp. 91–92, pl. 38, as in a private collection.
Tyge Möller. "Correspondance de Danemark: L'Éxposition de l'art français du XIXe siècle à Copenhague." Gazette des beaux-arts, 4th ser., 12 (August 1914), p. 160.
Erich Klossowski. Honoré Daumier. 2nd rev. ed. Munich, 1923, p. 106, no. 224, pl. 95.
Raymond Escholier. Daumier: Peintre et Lithographe. Paris, 1923, p. 152 [2nd ed., 1930], relates an account by M. Régereault regarding the spoiling of this painting due to the "funeste alliage du bitume et du blanc frais"; considers this version unlocated.
Michael Sadleir. Daumier: The Man and the Artist. London, 1924, pl. 18, as in the Gallimard collection.
Eduard Fuchs. Der Maler Daumier. Munich, 1927, pp. 17, 28, 49, no. 73, pl. 73 [2nd rev. ed., 1930], states that there are several versions of this composition, listing the one currently at the Musée d'Orsay, Paris (Maison 1968, no. I-160).
A[lbert] H. B[arr]., Jr. Memorial Exhibition: The Collection of the Late Miss Lizzie P. Bliss, Vice-President of the Museum. Exh. cat., Museum of Modern Art. New York, 1931, pp. 11, 14, 21, no. 23, ill.
Art News 29 (May 23, 1931), p. 15, ill.
Alfred H. Barr Jr. and Jerome Klein. The Lillie P. Bliss Collection. Exh. cat., Museum of Modern Art. New York, 1934, pp. 39–41, no. 22, ill., tentatively call this picture the final version since it is the largest, the most finished, and the only one that is dated; call it "almost certainly" the one exhibited at the 1861 Salon.
Charles Sterling. Daumier: Peintures, aquarelles, dessins. Exh. cat., Musée de l'Orangerie. Paris, 1934, p. 50, under no. 13, erroneously states that Geoffroy-Dechaume and Gallimard owned two different paintings; mistakenly identifies the Orsay version as no. 37 in Paris 1878 (see Exhibitions).
Sam A. Lewisohn. Painters and Personality: A Collector's View of Modern Art. [New York], 1937, pp. xii, 67, pl. 35.
Thomas Craven, ed. A Treasury of Art Masterpieces, from the Renaissance to the Present Day. New York, 1939, p. 490, colorpl. 119, dates it 1861.
Walter Pach inMasterpieces of Art: Catalogue of European and American Paintings, 1500–1900. Exh. cat., World's Fair. New York, 1940, p. 180, no. 258, dates it 1861 or 1863.
The Development of Impressionism. Exh. cat., Los Angeles Museum. 1940, unpaginated no. 13, ill., dates it 1861 and states that there are two other versions.
Jean Adhémar. Honoré Daumier. Paris, , p. 124, under no. 114, identifies the Paris version (Maison 1968, no. I-160) as the one shown at the 1861 Salon; repeats the erroneous listing (See Sterling 1934) of Gallimard and Geoffroy-Dechaume as the owners of two separate pictures; states that Daumier made a replica of the composition for his friend Geoffroy-Dechaume in 1863.
K. E. Maison. Letter to Theodore Rousseau. September 17, 1960, confirms Gallimard and, providing the inscription reads 1863, Geoffroy-Dechaume as former owners of this picture.
K. E. M[aison]. "Daumier's Painted Replicas." Gazette des beaux-arts, 6th ser., 57 (1961), pp. 370–71, 377 n. 1.
K. E. Maison inDaumier: Paintings and Drawings. Exh. cat., Tate Gallery. [London], 1961, p. 40, under no. 72, dates it 1863; tentatively identifies the Albright-Knox version (Maison 1968, no. I-84) as the first of the three.
Charles Sterling and Margaretta M. Salinger. French Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Vol. 2, XIX Century. New York, 1966, pp. 40–43, ill., state that it was painted for Geoffroy-Dechaume, Daumier's friend and neighbor; assert that either the Orsay or Albright-Knox versions was exhibited at the Salon of 1861 based on a review describing a picture of a laundress whose size was equivalent to two opened hands; discuss the early deterioration of this painting's surface, adding that its signature and provenance confirm its authenticity.
K. E. Maison. Honoré Daumier: Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings, Watercolours, and Drawings. Vol. 1, The Paintings. Greenwich, Conn., 1968, pp. 96–97, 136–37, no. I-159, pl. 42, proposes the following chronological sequence for the three versions: Albright-Knox (1855–56), MMA (1863), Orsay (1863–64); states that the Albright-Knox picture must have been the one exhibited at the Salon of 1861; calls ours Daumier's only dated work, noting that it "was almost certainly painted" for Geoffroy-Dechaume.
Gabriele Mandel inL'opera pittorica completa di Daumier. Milan, 1971, p. 106, no. 207, ill.
Theodore Reff. "Degas: A Master among Masters." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 34 (Spring 1977), p. 31, fig. 54 (color), comments that this picture probably inspired Degas's "Woman Ironing, Seen Against the Light" (about 1882; National Gallery of Art, Washington).
Sarah Symmons. Daumier. London, 1979, p. 75, under no. 53.
Katy Kline inPainting and Sculpture From Antiquity to 1942. Ed. Steven A. Nash. Exh. cat., Albright-Knox Art Gallery. New York, 1979, p. 208, dates it 186; calls the Albright picture "probably the earliest of several versions".
Theodore Reff. Manet and Modern Paris. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, 1982, p. 48, under no. 8, fig. 26, compares the "heroic laundresses" painted by Daumier to those in Armand Guillaumin's picture "The Pont Louis Philippe" (1875; National Gallery of Art, Washington).
Eunice Lipton. Looking into Degas: Uneasy Images of Women and Modern Life. Berkeley, 1986, p. 123, dates it about 1863.
Kirk Varnedoe. Studies in Modern Art. The Museum of Modern Art at Mid-Century: Continuity and Change. Ed. John Elderfield. Vol. 5, The Evolving Torpedo: Changing Ideas of the Collection of Painting and Sculpture of The Museum of Modern Art. New York, 1995, p. 63 n. 9, notes that Lillie P. Bliss stipulated in her will that this picture would become the property of the MMA if the Museum of Modern Art no longer wanted it; quotes a 1947 inter-museum agreement describing it as "'more appropriately a part of the collection of the older institution'".
Michael Pantazzi inDaumier, 1808–1879. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Canada. Ottawa, 1999, pp. 231, 303, 313–14, 348, 491, no. 163, ill. (color), dates it 1861?–1863?; considers it possible that our picture was exhibited at the 1861 Salon based on Ref. Duranty 1878, though more likely that the Salon picture was the Albright-Knox version; suggests that the Orsay picture was executed second, perhaps begun in 1861 and intended for the Salon, noting that it originally followed the Albright-Knox version more closely and that its revisions were "incorporated in the third [MMA] version".
Patricia Mathews. Passionate Discontent: Creativity, Gender, and French Symbolist Art. Chicago, 1999, pp. 181–82, fig. 8.4.
Rona Roob. "Patrons: A Noble Legacy." Art in America 91 (November 2003), pp. 78–79, 81, ill. p. 76 (color), states that this was the version exhibited at the Salon of 1861; refers to it as one of Bliss's favorite works.
Richard R. Brettell and Stephen F. Eisenman. Nineteenth-Century Art in the Norton Simon Museum. Ed. Sara Campbell. Vol. 1, New Haven, 2006, p. 129.
Kathryn Calley Galitz inThe Masterpieces of French Painting from The Metropolitan Museum of Art: 1800–1920. Exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. New York, 2007, pp. 38, 204–5, no. 18, ill. (color and black and white), dates it 1863 and calls it "possibly the last of three painted versions".
Kathryn Calley Galitz inMasterpieces of European Painting, 1800–1920, in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2007, pp. 46, 238, no. 43, ill. (color and black and white), dates it 186[3?].
The other two versions of this composition are in the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, and the Musée d'Orsay, Paris (Maison nos. I-84, I-160).