Women's work in the 19th centurye century

Women's work in the 19th century<sup>e</sup> century

  • The Laundress.

    DAUMIER Honoré (1808 - 1879)

  • The Ironers.

    DEGAS Edgar (1834 - 1917)

  • Linen.

    DELACHAUX Leon

  • Les Laveuses à la Laïta.

    SERUSIER Paul (1864 - 1927)

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Title: The Laundress.

Author : DAUMIER Honoré (1808 - 1879)

Creation date : 1863

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 49.1 - Width 33.5

Technique and other indications: Oil on wood

Storage location: Orsay Museum website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - H. Lewandowskisite web

Picture reference: 98DE25490 / RE 2630

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - H. Lewandowski

To close

Title: The Ironers.

Author : DEGAS Edgar (1834 - 1917)

Creation date : 1884

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 76 - Width 81

Technique and other indications: Oil on canvas

Storage location: Orsay Museum website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - H. Lewandowskisite web

Picture reference: 95DE24202 / RF 1985

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - H. Lewandowski

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Title: Linen.

Author : DELACHAUX Léon (-)

Creation date : 1905

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 47 - Width 56.5

Technique and other indications: Oil on canvas

Storage location: Orsay Museum website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palaissite web

Picture reference: 93DE564 / RF 1980-95

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais

To close

Title: Les Laveuses à la Laïta.

Author : SERUSIER Paul (1864 - 1927)

Creation date : 1892

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 73 - Width 92

Technique and other indications: Oil on canvas

Storage location: Orsay Museum website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - H. Lewandowskisite web

Picture reference: 00DE22555 / RF 1981-8

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - H. Lewandowski

Publication date: February 2014

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Women's work in the 19th centurye century

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Historical context

If the theme of work in painting has been common in Holland since the 17th century, this is not the case in France, where the subject was long considered unworthy. Boucher and Fragonard certainly painted washerwomen in the 18th century, but this was only a pretext for showing gallant scenes and dreamlike landscapes.
Millet was one of the first, in the mid-19th century, to describe straightforwardly scenes of labor, in this case those of peasants; he thus opened the way to the exploration of a theme in which these four paintings are part of the feminine.

Image Analysis

Beyond this first point, it is clear that the treatment varies from one work to another.

With Daumier as with Delachaux, the characters emanate an impression of nobility. But La Lingère is a serene and idealized image which completely obscures the social reality of the subject and where the accumulation of details detracts from the expressive power of the work.

On the contrary, The Laundress clearly suggests the difficulty of the task accomplished day in and day out. The monumentality of the character accentuates the curve of his body which seems to bend under the load. The absence of any anecdote, the indistinct background and the backlight that hides the facial features help the viewer to concentrate on the essential: the human figure, its gestures, its attitude. The image becomes almost allegorical; through it, Daumier describes the difficult existence of the entire working class under the Second Empire.

At Degas, the approach to the subject is different. Daumier’s humanism gives way to an incisive, ruthless gaze. The heroic character of The Laundress in Degas gives way to a somewhat trivial comedy in which the gestures have a rare expressive force that suggests the impression of an instant. The ironer on the left stretches and yawns, holding a bottle of wine in one hand, while her partner, her back hunched, stubbornly continues her task.

Finally, by comparison, Sérusier’s work seems much more decorative with its ranges of solid and simplified colors. The subject is no longer more than a pretext for the application of new aesthetic principles, those advocated by Gauguin, whom Sérusier frequented at that time in Brittany.

Interpretation

Regardless of the approach, these images illustrate a subject also covered in The Assommoir of Zola, that of the work of the linen entrusted since time immemorial to the women; precarious work (women are often employed by the day), repetitive, of excessive duration, underpaid and moreover at risk: the handling of dirty and wet laundry was a vector of transmission of tuberculosis, a great scourge of the century.

Finally, the interest shown by painters in these workers contrasts with the negative judgment of which they were the object: they were accused of wearing or renting the linen that was entrusted to them, of indulging in prostitution, of falling in alcoholism. This judgment, partly founded, testifies to the difficult existence of these women.

  • alcoholism
  • women
  • workers
  • poverty
  • wine
  • working class

Bibliography

Collective Laundresses, washer, ironer, The woman, the laundry and the water. exhibition cat.Ecomusée de Fresnes, 1986.

To cite this article

Nadine FATTOUH-MALVAUD, “The work of women in the XIXe century "

Connections

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