Edgar Degas (183401917)
Combing the Hair ('La Coiffure') ca. 1896
Oil on canvas
114.3 x 146.7 cm.
National Gallery, London.
One of my favorite paintings in the National Gallery. I think the initial pull was the monochromatic color. Despite the limited color palette (though there exists a wonderful red palette), the painting stands out. The pedestrian subject matter creates a focus on the detail.
Degas is most well-known for his paintings of dancers, subject matter which has never particularly appealed to me. I prefer these simple interior scenes, reminding me of Vuillard (yet his interiors have a greater focus on pattern). I find it fascinating that the maid has the same color hair as the girl who's hair she combs. It creates an affinity between the women, one that most likely doesn't actually exist outside of the scene Degas presents to us.
The National Gallery is collaborating with the London Film School on a project (Transcriptions) in which the students choose a work in the gallery as inspiration for a short film piece. Here is Mistress inspired by La Coiffure.