The Impressionists had cultivated their new methods of painting but were not theorists. Their time as a group had gone. Manet was dead. Monet had fled the city. Newcomers relied upon the consequences of their innovations to go further in expression and color: Cézanne, Gauguin, van Gogh, Seurat.
Excited by the idea of free art, Degas accompanied from end to end the Impressionist movement which he once wanted to name Les Intransigeants (hardliners). His personal technique is however different. He is the master of pastel in bright colors that do not hide the drawing.
In that crisis of the end of Impressionism, Renoir and Degas went back to the influence of Ingres. Their characters are humble women in quiet occupations where full nudity does not shock: bathing, washing herself, combing her hair. In the hues of realistic colors, outdoor nudes by Renoir are ideal while indoor nudes by Degas are detailed in an excess that will be criticized as misogyny.
Around 1886 pastels by Degas maintain a high sensitivity in the colors of the nude dominated by flesh and red hair. The blurred background helps to reach a sweet harmony. Later, his colors will often be harder.
On November 4 in New York, Sotheby's sells a woman combing her hair in back view by Degas. This pastel on paper laid down on board 71 x 59 cm is not dated but displays the style and features of that period. It is estimated $ 15M, lot 21T.