WOMEN: THEIR PRIVATE WORLD

Pablo Picasso, "Nude Wringing Her Hair," 7 October 1952. Oil on wood panel. Private collection. © 2010 Estate of Pablo Picasso/ARS, New York

Degas produced hundreds of images of women washing themselves and doing their hair, rejecting mythological subject matter in favor of ordinary contemporary scenes. In taking up the same motifs at the turn of the century, Picasso invited direct comparison with Degas. In 1906, when toilette scenes briefly dominated his work, Picasso adopted a willfully "primitive" form of classicism, drawing inspiration from Degas's daringly simplified late style. The posthumous sales of the contents of Degas's studio in 1918--19 brought a flood of unknown drawings and paintings onto the market, and shortly thereafter the first set of bronzes was cast from Degas's wax sculptures. Picasso's interest in Degas was reignited, and for the rest of his life he periodically produced major paintings and suites of drawings depicting women engrossed in their toilette, never imitating Degas closely but acknowledging his precedent by echoing his most characteristic poses and devices.

Edgar Degas, "Combing the Hair (La Coiffure)," c. 1896. Oil on canvas. The National Gallery, London. Bought, 1937 (NG4865).
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