Woman Combing Her Hair, ca. 1888-90. Edgar Degas. Pastel on light green wove paper, now discolored to warm gray, affixed to original pulpboard mount. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Nate B. Spingold, 1956.
This is the second of two variants of a composition that Degas created about 1885 (State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg). In this version, he used a new technique, applying pastel in so many successive layers that the pigment became burnished and the underlying paper rubbed to such an extent that the fibers were loosened and now project from the surface like many little hairs. Degas also emphasized anti-natural chartreuses and greens in modeling the figure’s pink flesh, perhaps inspired by the play of complementary color contrasts in the work of such younger contemporaries as Seurat or Van Gogh.