About This Artwork

Mary Cassatt (American, 1844-1926)
printed with Leroy (French, active 1876-1900)

The Coiffure, 1890–91

Color aquatint with drypoint from three plates, on ivory laid paper
365 x 267 mm (image/plate); 433 x 330 mm (sheet)

Mr. and Mrs. Martin A. Ryerson Collection, 1932.1284

As the current exhibition Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity demonstrates, women in the late 19th century were regularly defined by their attire. Clothing, makeup, and accessories frequently reflected not only a woman’s social status but also her character and morality. Scholar Justine De Young has observed of the period, “Dressing fashionably and in good taste thus became one of the central concerns of a bourgeois woman’s daily life, as not merely her appearance but also her reputation was at stake.” The same strict rules of public presentation did not necessarily apply, however, to the private, domestic sphere—as the images in this gallery illustrate. Shown here are women in the process of dressing or undressing; relaxing in their underclothes, nightgowns, or morning dress; or in the most private of moments: sleeping or reclining nude. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s print portfolio Elles most likely depicts prostitutes during the course of the day, but these prints could easily represent the interior life of any woman, as they illustrate common boudoir behaviors: the toilette, lounging in bed, grooming, and conversing with friends. Prints by Childe Hassam, Edvard Munch, James McNeill Whistler, and Paul Gavarni show women wearing peignoirs or dressing gowns. These garments were typically worn by upper class women while they went about their regular morning activities: attending to the servants or the children, catching up on reading and correspondence, and other routine household concerns.

— Exhibition text panel, Undressed: The Fashion of Privacy, June 22–September 29, 2013, Galleries 124–127.

View mobile website