Throughout his career Degas returned to the same figures and motifs again and again, constantly modifying and refining them. One of these was nude women engaged in daily activities like bathing, drying themselves, or brushing their hair. His figures are often depicted from an unusual vantage point and framed asymmetrically. Though they appear unposed, Degas collaborated closely with his models in the studio. Eventually, through continual repetition of a motif or position, he arrived at the point where he could render it from memory and experiment with the form in different configurations of space. This glimpse into the quiet world of a woman seated at her toilette is drawn in charcoal and supplemented with pastels. Degas considered drawing and pastel to be mediums equal in importance to painting, which set him apart from his contemporaries, and he considered works such as this to be completely finished.

From Bulletin of the Detroit Institute of Arts 89 (2015)
Artist Edgar Degas, French, 1834-1917
  • Seated Nude Woman Brushing Her Hair
Date between 1885 and 1908
Medium charcoal and pastel on blue laid paper
Dimensions Sheet: 19 × 24 1/4 inches (48.3 × 61.6 cm)
Credit Line Gift of the Josephine F. Ford Estate
Accession Number 2005.63
Department Prints, Drawings & Photographs
Not On View
Signed Signed, lower left: Degas
until 1960, Wildenstein (New York, New York, USA);
1960-2005, Josephine Ford (Grosse Point Farms, Michigan, USA);
2005-present, gift to the Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, Michigan, USA)