Woman at her toilet: the washbasin
Bequeathed by A. S. F. Gow through the National Art Collections Fund 1978
Degas achieved the very painterly quality in this print by first coating a printing plate with a layer of ink and then wiping and brushing the ink away to create the image. It is one of a number executed in a similar technique, called 'dark manner' monotypes, alluding to the mezzotint printmaking process where the artist works from dark to light. Monotypes are so-called because almost all of the ink is transferred onto the paper during printing, meaning only one impression is usually achievable. However, Degas often printed a second impression, sometimes from the plate itself (called a 'cognate') and sometimes from the still-wet first impression (a 'counterproof'). He would then work over the second, paler impression with coloured pastels. The faint inscription on this print indicates that it is a first impression. This print belongs to a group of monotypes thought to date from 1880-3, which focus on one of the main themes in Degas's work - that of women engaged in the private act of bathing.