Study of a Seated Woman, 1868–69
Stamped in red ink at lower right, Degas; inscribed at right with extraneous numbers.
Oil paint thinned with turpentine, over graphite, on tan paper
13 3/4 x 8 3/16 inches (350 x 209 mm.)
Bequest of John S. Thacher, 1985
On this small sheet, forms are created by broad areas of wash, free from the solid outlines of earlier drawings. Degas' use of thinned paint expanded the creative possibilities of brushwork and color; for instance, the figure's left arm is formed by the negative space between two areas of wash. This is one of several studies made by the artist in preparation for the female figure in Interior (Philadelphia Museum of Art). The ambiguous, tense nocturnal scene in the painting is evocative of contemporary novels, such as Thérèse Raquin, émile Zola's chronicle of lust and murder. The subject's internal, private focus is emphasized by her oblique position and vague features.