When Degas showed his "suite of nudes," including this pastel, at the eighth and final Impressionist exhibition in 1886, critics viciously attacked the ungainly poses of his bathers. After the exhibition Degas gave the picture to Mary Cassatt in exchange for her painting Girl Arranging Her Hair (National Gallery of Art, Washington). Louisine Havemeyer eventually acquired both works.
Inscription: Signed and dated (upper left): Degas / 85
Mary Cassatt, Paris (about 1886–1919; acquired from the artist in exchange for her "Girl Arranging her Hair" [National Gallery of Art, Washington]; deposited with Durand-Ruel, Paris, March 8, 1918–May 9, 1919; deposit no. 11925; offered in a letter of December 28, 1917 with two other Degases [29.100.555 and 29.100.183] for $20,000 to Havemeyer); Mrs. H. O. (Louisine W.) Havemeyer, New York (by 1919–d. 1929; shipped to her by Durand-Ruel, May 9, 1919; cat., 1931, p. 132)
Paris. 1 Rue Laffitte. "8me exposition de peinture [8th Impressionist exhibition]," May 15–June 15, 1886, nos. 19–28 (one of "Suite de nuds [sic]").
New York. Grolier Club. "Prints, Drawings and Bronzes by Degas," January 26–February 28, 1922, no. 47 (as "Femme au tub, s'essuyant").
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The H. O. Havemeyer Collection," March 10–November 2, 1930, no. 146 (as "Woman Bathing") [2nd ed., 1958, no. 127].
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Degas in the Metropolitan," February 26–September 4, 1977, no. 42 (of works on paper).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Degas," September 27, 1988–January 8, 1989, no. 269.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Splendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection," March 27–June 20, 1993, no. A239.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. "Degas and the Nude," October 9, 2011–February 5, 2012, unnumbered cat. (fig. 146).
Washington. National Gallery of Art. "Degas/Cassatt," May 11–October 5, 2014, no. 55 (as "Woman in a Shallow Tub").
Maurice Hermel. "L'Exposition de peinture de la rue Laffitte." La France libre (May 27, 1886), p. 2 [reprinted in Ref. Berson 1996, p. 455].
Gustave Geffroy. "Salon de 1886: VIII. Hors du Salon: Les Impressionnistes." La Justice (May 26, 1886) [reprinted in Ref. Berson 1996, p. 452].
Félix Fénéon. "Les Impressionnistes." La Vogue (June 13–20, 1886), p. 262 [reprinted in Ref. Berson 1996, p. 441].
Octave Mirbeau. "Exposition de peinture (1, rue Laffitte)." La France (May 21, 1886), p. 1 [reprinted in Ref. Berson 1996, p. 465], describes this bather as possessing the beauty and force of a gothic statue.
[Octave Maus]. "Les Vingtistes parisiens." L'Art moderne [Brussels] (June 27, 1886), pp. 201–4 [reprinted in Ref. Berson 1996, p. 463].
J.-K. Huysmans. Certains. Paris, 1889, p. 24.
Mary Cassatt. Letter to Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer. December 28,  [published in Nancy Mowll Mathews, ed., "Cassatt and Her Circle, Selected Letters," New York, 1984, p. 330], offers to sell Mrs. Havemeyer three works by Degas [this pastel, a fan (29.100.555), and a portrait (29.100.183)] for $20,000.
H. O. Havemeyer Collection: Catalogue of Paintings, Prints, Sculpture and Objects of Art. n.p., 1931, p. 132, as "Nude - Femme s'essuyant".
Louise Burroughs. "Degas in the Havemeyer Collection." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 27 (May 1932), p. 145.
P[aul]. A[ndré]. Lemoisne. Degas et son œuvre. [reprint 1984]. Paris, [1946–49], vol. 3, pp. 466–67, no. 816, ill., as "Femme au tub".
Ronald Pickvance. Letter to Margaretta M. Salinger. August 3, 1963, doubts its inclusion in the 1886 Impressionist exhibition.
Ronald Pickvance. Letter to Mary Ann W. Harris. June 14, 1964, remarks that Fénéon's description [Ref. Fénéon 1886] "can only apply" to this pastel.
Félix Fénéon. Au-delà de l'impressionnisme. Paris, 1966, pp. 58–59.
Charles Sterling and Margaretta M. Salinger. French Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Vol. 3, XIX–XX Centuries. New York, 1967, p. 88, ill., as "Woman Bathing in a Shallow Tub".
Fiorella Minervino inL'opera completa di Degas. Milan, 1970, p. 127, no. 911, ill.
Charles S. Moffett. Degas: Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1979, p. 13, colorpl. 29.
Roy McMullen. Degas: His Life, Times, and Work. Boston, 1984, p. 377.
Charles F. Stuckey inDegas: Form and Space. Ed. Maurice Guillaud. Exh. cat., Centre Culturel du Marais. Paris, 1984, p. 46, fig. 123 (color).
Geneviève Monnier. Pastels du XIXe siècle: Musée du Louvre, Cabinet des dessins; Musée d'Orsay. Paris, 1985, p. 68, under no. 59.
Frances Weitzenhoffer. The Havemeyers: Impressionism Comes to America. New York, 1986, pp. 238, 255, pl. 158, describes Cassatt's sale of this pastel to Mrs. Havemeyer.
Richard Thomson. "Degas's Nudes at the 1886 Impressionist Exhibition." Gazette des beaux-arts, 6th ser., 108 (November 1986), p. 188, fig. 1, identifies it among the Suite de nuds [sic] in the 1886 Impressionist exhibition, based on descriptions in contemporary reviews [see Refs. Geffroy 1886 and Fénéon 1886].
Martha Ward inThe New Painting: Impressionism 1874–1886. Ed. Charles S. Moffett. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington. San Francisco, 1986, pp. 430–34, 443.
Gary Tinterow inDegas. Exh. cat., Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, Paris. New York, 1988, pp. 324, 367, 372, 380, 385, 443–44, 446–48, 451, 472, no. 269, ill. (color), calls it the "sketchiest, most difficult, and least commercial of the suite of nudes" and suggests that its unconventionality "may have been intended as a deliberately anticlassical—hence modern—statement".
Richard Thomson. Degas: The Nudes. London, 1988, pp. 130–31, 134, 139, 142–43, 146, fig. 121, colorpl. 149, discusses the critical reception of the bather images shown in the 1886 Impressionist exhibition, noting that "the critics were contradictory, uncertain or ambivalent about the identity of the women".
Gary Tinterow and Anne Norton. "Degas aux expositions impressionnistes." Degas inédit: Actes du Colloque Degas. Paris, 1989, p. 349, note that it was definitely shown in the 1886 Impressionist exhibition, but that it is not possible to identify the catalogue number.
Richard Thomson. "Les poses chez Degas de 1875 à 1886: lecture et signification." Degas inédit: Actes du Colloque Degas. Paris, 1989, pp. 220–21.
Carol Armstrong. Odd Man Out: Readings of the Work and Reputation of Edgar Degas. Chicago, 1991, pp. 159, 182, fig. 92.
Jean Sutherland Boggs and Anne Maheux. Degas Pastels. New York, 1992, pp. 112, 182, identify it as no. 24 in the 1886 Impressionist exhibition.
Richard Kendall. "Signs and Non-Signs: Degas' Changing Strategies of Representation." Dealing with Degas: Representations of Women and the Politics of Vision. Ed. Richard Kendall and Griselda Pollock. London, 1992, pp. 195–98, calls the bather pastels in the 1886 Impressionist exhibition "remarkable for their lack of socially specific or pictorially informative detail".
Heather Dawkins. "Managing Degas." Dealing with Degas: Representations of Women and the Politics of Vision. Ed. Richard Kendall and Griselda Pollock. London, 1992, p. 143.
Anthea Callen. "Degas' "Bathers": Hygiene and Dirt—Gaze and Touch." Dealing with Degas: Representations of Women and the Politics of Vision. Ed. Richard Kendall and Griselda Pollock. London, 1992, pp. 166–70, fig. 38, discusses the multiple viewpoints in this picture, reading the lower vantage point of the body as feminine and the higher position of the setting as masculine.
Louisine W. Havemeyer. Sixteen to Sixty: Memoirs of a Collector. Ed. Susan Alyson Stein. 3rd ed. [1st ed. 1930, repr. 1961]. New York, 1993, pp. 257, 337 n. 376, p. 339 n. 389, p. 341 n. 420, p. 342 n. 429.
Susan Alyson Stein inSplendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1993, pp. 273–74, 278, pl. 271.
Gretchen Wold inSplendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1993, pp. 331, 335, no. A239, ill. p. 334.
Anthea Callen. The Spectacular Body: Science, Method and Meaning in the Work of Degas. New Haven, 1995, pp. 29, 31, 155, pl. 22, as "Femme au tub".
Richard Kendall. Degas, Beyond Impressionism. Exh. cat., National Gallery. London, 1996, pp. 59, 142–43, 155, fig. 58 (color), discusses the lack of narrative and male figures in Degas's late bather pictures; mentions this pastel among nude images that were owned by women collectors, for whom "voyeurism was hardly their principal concern".
Ruth Berson, ed. "Documentation: Volume I, Reviews and Volume II, Exhibited Works." The New Painting: Impressionism 1874–1886. San Francisco, 1996, vol. 2, pp. 240–41, no. VIII-21, ill. p. 259, identifies it as no. 21 in the 1886 Impressionist exhibition.
Martha Ward. Pissarro, Neo-Impressionism, and the Spaces of the Avant-Garde. Chicago, 1996, p. 99, fig. 4.4, discusses it in the context of the scandal caused by the artist's nudes at the 1886 Impressionist exhibition in placing the viewer in a voyeuristic position.
Ann Dumas inThe Private Collection of Edgar Degas. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1997, p. 9.
Michael Kimmelman. Portraits: Talking with Artists at the Met, the Modern, the Louvre and Elsewhere. New York, 1998, ill. p. 153.
Charles Harrison. Painting the Difference: Sex and Spectator in Modern Art. Chicago, 2005, p. 129.
Jane Kinsman. Degas: The Uncontested Master. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Australia. Canberra, 2008, pp. 177, 179 n. 11.
George T. M. Shackelford inDegas and the Nude. Exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Boston, 2011, pp. 137, 139–41, 210, 213, 226, fig. 146 (color) [French ed., "Degas et le nu," Paris, 2012, pp. 164, 169, 234, 244, 270, fig. 156 (color)], observes that this is the least finished pastel Degas included in the 1886 Impressionist exhibition; compares it to Manet's "The Tub" (Musée d'Orsay, Paris); states that, together with two other works (Hill-Stead Museum, Farmington, Connecticut, and Hiroshima Museum of Art), the same pose is shown from multiple vantage points, as in studies for the "Little Fourteen-Year-Old Dancer"; states that Degas quoted this figure in "The Bathers" (Art Institute of Chicago).
Richard Thomson. Art of the Actual: Naturalism and Style in Early Third Republic France, 1880–1900. New Haven, 2012, p. 322 n. 6, notes that Degas's inclusion of a date on this picture, among others of the period, lends credence to the idea that he was planning a one-man exhibition.
Amanda T. Zehnder in Kimberly A. Jones. Degas/Cassatt. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, 2014, pp. 4, 13–14, 16, erroneously states that the pitcher depicted is the same as in other canvases by both Degas and Cassatt.
Kimberly A. Jones. Degas/Cassatt. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, 2014, p. 156, no. 55, colorpl. 55, ill. p. 127 (color detail).
Erica E. Hirshler and Elliot Bostwick Davis in Kimberly A. Jones. Degas/Cassatt. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, 2014, pp. 128, 133, note that in Cassatt's collection it served as an advertisement for the kind of art she championed.
This work is one of seven pastels of a woman in a shallow tub that Degas executed in the mid-1880s. Three are closely similar in composition to ours in their depiction of the bather standing or squatting, with one arm extended (L1097, Hiroshima Museum of Art; L876, Hill-Stead Museum, Farmington, Conn.; L872, Musée d'Orsay, Paris).