Leaving the Bath, c. 1879-1880
electric crayon, etching, drypoint and aquatint on laid paper
29.7 x 21.7 cm; plate: 12.8 x 12.8 cm
National Gallery of Canada (no. 18662)
This print was prepared for a journal Degas planned called "Le Jour et la Nuit" (Day and Night), but the project was never realized. It was to be a collaborative effort with other Impressionist artists including Mary Cassatt and Camille Pissarro, who owned this particular print according to an inscription. The intimate daily routines of women’s lives fascinated Degas, from their visits to the milliner to the unguarded domestic moments seen here. "Leaving the Bath" is not a particularly graceful or flattering depiction, although he was capable of sensualizing the experience, as demonstrated by the later lithographs. In his intaglio prints, Degas often combined a variety of techniques to create visual interest and atmosphere through contrasting ink densities. Of particular note here is his use of an electric crayon, adapted from the carbon filament of an electric arc lamp that was used commercially in the 1870s. Degas laboured long in the execution of this print resulting in a remarkable 17 different states, each documenting a change in the plate.