October 10, 2011 § 1 Comment
As you can imagine, I’m a little hair obsessed these days. I am almost to the point where I can count individual hairs still courageously clinging on to my head. Brave little souls. The new cry in this house is, “People, I’m taking my hair off – get ready.” Yesterday was first wig washing day. Went well – in some ways, a lot less trouble than washing my real hair – but still, all a bit unusual and, if I can suggest, not ideal.
All of which makes it not that surprising that I was drawn to this picture during my last National Gallery pop-in.
This is Combing the Hair (La Coiffure) painted in 1896 by Degas. Obviously, this lady has way too much hair for my taste (at the moment) but I take some comfort in the pain the maid seems to be inflicting on the lady during this brushing process. The notes suggest that “the relationship between the women is ambiguous: in some ways, the maid is the more powerful at this moment,” and the mistress does seem to be holding onto the top of her hair, the way little girls do when a parent is trying to drag a comb through their hair. In terms of art (rather than hair), the National Gallery like this painting because Degas does a great deal with tone and shade, just basically using red and grey.
As I’m sure you all know, Degas painted lots of pictures of women brushing their hair. I could show you one of those but prefer to reproduce the above painting in the form of a French Impressioniste tie design.