Degas and Cassatt: She Outwits Him Again

by | Jun 10, 2022

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When the unbearably chauvinistic Edgar Degas quipped, “What do women know about style?”,  Mary Cassatt responded with this work, in which beauty is derived from the painter’s skill and style, rather than from a conventionally pretty subject. One source indicated that Degas had already told Mary that he thought her household helper, depicted in this painting, was too ugly to paint, which may have influenced her choice of model.

Girl Arranging Her Hair
Mary Cassatt

Girl Arranging Her Hair (1886) was exhibited in the 8th Impressionist exhibition. Degas purchased it and never parted with it. Actions speak louder than words, eh?

After Degas’ death, his huge collection of artwork was sold, and this painting is currently owned by the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.

Mary’s selection of a pose may have been influenced by Michelangelo’s Dying Slave sculpture, which is in the collection of the Louvre.

Michelangelo: Dying Slave for the Tomb of Julius II., c. 1513-15, Paris, Louvre. Photo by Jörg Bittner Unna, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

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