Voyeurism and Hygiene in Degas's monotype series "The Bathers"

Essay by nsmurfinUniversity, Bachelor'sA, November 2014

download word file, 7 pages 0.0

Natalie Samantha Murfin


"Using the above quotation, discuss Anthea Callan's notions of voyeurism and hygiene is Degas's monotype series The Bathers"


Zamansele Nsele

I declare that this essay is my own wark and that all the sources I have used have been acknowledged by means of complete references.



Nead states that to depict a body is to deal with "inescapable issues of representation" (Nead 1992). The depiction of nudes in art is considered by many to be a cornerstone of artistic practise - "The female body has become art" (Nead 1992: 19). Nudes are typically historically depicted in an austere and controlled manner, "contained within boundaries, conventions and poses" (Nead 1992: 11) so as to be considered 'appropriate' and without the associations of being "pornographic". Some works, however, break such representational conventions and thus, draw attention to the framework through which one views the nude.

This essay aims to examine one of these bodies of work - namely Degas's monotype series The Bathers - and highlight the notions of hygiene and voyeurism present therein.

Degas's series of pastel and monotype drawings, The Bathers, was first exhibited in its entirety in France in 1877 (Callan, 1995: 72). The works were considered so controversial that "they elicited the largest single body of criticism on the artist's work" (Callan, 1995: 71). The works, small in size, depicted nude prostitutes in then-contemporary France over a large number of monotype plates (Callan, 1995: 72). Though prostitutes had typically been used as nude models in painting before this body of work, the nature of Degas's depiction of them challenged most accepted conventions of "nude painting" - the women in the works were "crossing the boundaries […] of cultural convention" (Callan, 1995: 139).

Part of the...