About This Artwork

Edgar Degas
French, 1834-1917

The Millinery Shop, 1879/86

Oil on canvas
39 3/8 x 43 9/16 in. (100 x 110.7 cm)

Mr. and Mrs. Lewis Larned Coburn Memorial Collection, 1933.428

Of at least fifteen pastels, drawings, and paintings that Edgar Degas created on this subject during the 1880s, The Millinery Shop is the largest and perhaps the most ambitious. As a result of its unusual cropping and tilted perspective, it seems to capture an unedited glimpse of the interior of a small nineteenth-century millinery shop. The identity of the young woman in the painting remains unclear: she may be a shop girl or a customer. In an early version of the composition, the woman is clearly intended to be a customer; she wears a fashionable dress, though her hat—a prerequisite token of bourgeois culture—is absent. In the final painting, however, the woman appears with her mouth pursed, as if around a pin, and her hands gloved, possibly to protect the delicate fabric of the hat she holds. Degas seems to have deliberately left her role as a creator or consumer ambiguous. She is totally absorbed in her activity and, like most of the women in Degas’s paintings, seems unaware of being watched. The bonnets that are displayed on the table next to her like a still life present an analogy to the artist’s creative process: where they are unfinished, so too is the painting.

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

The Art Institute of Chicago, Mrs. L.L. Coburn Collection: Modern Paintings and Water Colors, April 6, 1932-October 9, 1932, cat. 9 (ill.).

The Art Institute of Chicago, A Century of Progress Exhibition of Paintings and Sculpture, June 1-November 1, 1933, cat. 286, pl. 53.

Northampton, Mass., Smith College Museum of Art, Edgar Degas, November 28-Deceber 18, 1933, cat. 8 (ill.).

The Art Institute of Chicago, A Century of Progress Exhibition of Paintings and Sculpture, June 1-November 1, 1934, cat. 202.

Toledo, Ohio, Museum of Art, French Impressionists and Post-Impressionists, November 1934, cat. 1.

Springfield, Mass., Museum of Art, French Painting, Cézanne to the Present, December 1935-January 1936, cat. 1.

Philadelphia Museum of Art, Degas, November-December 1936, cat. 40 (ill.).

Worcester, Mass., Worcester Art Museum, The Art of The Third Republic, February-March 1941, cat. 4 (ill. on cover).

Cleveland Museum of Art, The Works of Edgar Degas, February 5-March 9, 1947, cat. 38 (ill.).

Philadelphia Museum of Art, Diamond Jubilee Exhibition: Masterpieces of Painting, November 4, 1950-February 11, 1951, cat. 74 (ill.).

Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Edgar Degas: The Reluctant Impressionist, June 21-September 1, 1974, cat. 20 (ill.).

Richmond, Va., The Virginia Museum, Degas, May 23-July 9, 1978, cat. 14 (ill.).

Albi, Musée Toulouse-Lautrec, Trésors impressionistes du Musée de Chicago, June 27-August 31, 1980, cat. 8 (ill.).

The Art Institute of Chicago, Degas in The Art Institute of Chicago, July 19-September 23, 1984, cat. 63 (ill.).

Paris, Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, Degas, February 9-May 16, 1988, cat. 235 (ill.), traveled to Ottawa, National Gallery of Canada, June 16-August 28, 1988 and New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, September 27, 1988-January 8, 1989.

London, National Gallery, Degas: Beyond Impressionism, May 22-August 26, 1995, cat. 4 (ill.)., traveled to The Art Institute of Chicago, September 28, 1996-January 5, 1997.

Kansas City, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, loan exhibition, April 1995, no cat.

London, The National Gallery and The Art Institute of Chicago, Degas: Beyond Impressionism, 1996-1997, cat. 4.

New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Private Collection of Edgar Degas, October 1, 1997-January 11, 1998, no cat. no (fig. 96).

Atlanta, High Museum of Art, Degas and America: The Early Collectors, cat. 54 (ill.), traveled to The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, June 16-September 9, 2001, shown in Minneapolis only.

Washington, DC, The Phillips Collection, Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Still-Life Painting, September 22, 2001-January 13, 2002, no cat. no (pl. 60), traveled to Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, February 17-June 9, 2002.

Fort Worth, Tex., Kimbell Museum of Art, The Impressionists: Master Paintings from the Art Institute of Chicago, June 29–November 2, 2008, cat. 41 (ill.).

St. Louis, Missouri, Saint Louis Art Museum, Degas, Impressionism, and the Paris Millinery Trade from February 12 - May 7, 2017 and then to the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, California from June 24 - September 25, 2017.

Publication History

Daniel Catton Rich, “Bequest of Mrs. L. L. Coburn,” The Art Institute of Chicago Bulletin 26, 5 (1932), p. 69 (ill.).

The Fine Arts 19 (June 1932), p. 23 (ill.).

Eleanor Jewett, “Noted Private Art Collection on Exhibition: Antiquarians Sponsor Institute Show,” Chicago Tribune (April 6, 1932).

Smith College Museum of Art Bulletin 15 (June 1934), p. 15 (ill.).

Agnes Mongan, “Degas As Seen in American Collections,” Burlington Magazine 72 (1938), pp. 297 (ill.), 302.

George Slocombe, “Artist as Misanthrope,” Coronet 3, 6 (April 1938), p. 22 (ill.).

R. Shoolman and C. E. Slatkin, The Enjoyment of Art in America (Philadelphia, 1942), pl. 543.

An Illustrated Guide to the Collections of The Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, 1945), pp. 36 (ill.), 37.

Hans Huth, “Impressionism Comes to America,” Gazette des Beaux-Arts ser. 6, vol. 29 (1946), pp. 234, fig. 8.

Paul Andre Lemoisne, Degas et son oeuvre vol. 3 (Paris, 1946), cat. 832 (ill.).

F. Fels, L’Art Vivant de 1900 a Nos Jours (Geneva, 1950), p. 98 (ill.).

Daniel Catton Rich, “Midwest Art Capital,” Town and Country (March 1951), p. 75 (ill.).

The Art Institute of Chicago, A Brief Guide to the Collections (Chicago, 1956), pp. 34 (ill.), 35.

Pierre Cabanne, Degas (Paris, 1958), p. 111 (ill.).

The Art Institute of Chicago, Paintings in the Art Institute of Chicago: Catalogue of the Picture Collection (Chicago, 1961), pp. 121, 336 (ill.).

Frederick A. Sweet, “Great Chicago Collectors,” Apollo 84 (September 1966), p. 203, fig. 33.

William Gaunt, Impressionism: A Visual History (New York, 1970), pp. 244, 245, pl. 95.

John Maxon, The Art Institute of Chicago (New York, 1970), pp. 89 (ill.), 90, 280.

Franco Russoli and Fiorella Minervino, L’opera completa di Degas (Milan, 1970), no. 635 (ill.).

Caron LeBrun Danikian, “Degas Story Told in MFA Exhibition,” The Christian Science Monitor (July 2, 1974), p. 4C, ill.

Hilton Kramer, “Edgar Degas, the Reluctant Modernist, at a New Exhibition in Lonodn,” The New York Times (July 7, 1974), p. 19 (ill.).

The Art Institute of Chicago, 100 Masterpieces (Chicago, 1978), no. 63 (ill.).

Diane Kelder, The Great Book of French Impressionism (New York, 1980), p. 312 (ill.).

Manet, 1832-1883 exh. cat. (Paris, Galeries nationales du Grand Palais/New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1983), under cat. 213, fig. a.

Richard Brettell, French Impressionists (Chicago, 1987), p. 63 (ill.).

Eunice Lipton, Looking Into Degas Uneasy Images of Women and Modern Life (Berkeley, 1987), pp. 153-4 (ill.).

Horst Keller, Edgar Degas (Munich, 1988), pp. 81, 90 (ill.).

Anne Roquebert, Degas (Paris, 1988), p. 176, no 42 (ill.).

James N. Wood and Katharine C. Lee, Master Paintings in The Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, 1988), p. 60 (ill.).

Edward Lucie-Smith, Impressionist Women (London, 1989), pp. 98, 100, 101, pl. 88.

Howard Hodgkin, “A Great Artist’s Advice: Do Not Miss This Degas,” The Independent (May 22, 1996), p. 10.

Christopher Riopelle, "Edgar Degas: Illustrious and Unknown," in Art in the Making: Degas, exh. cat. (London, National Gallery, 2004), pp. 15, 16 (ill.).

The Age of Impressionism at the Art Institute of Chicago (New Haven and London, 2008), cat. 41, pp. 92-93 (ill.).

Simon Kelly and Esther Bell, Degas, Impressionism, and the Paris Millinery Trade, exh. cat. (Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco/ Legion of Honor/ Delmonico Books/ Prestel, 2017), book cover, pp. 104-105, cat. 1 (ill).

Ownership History

Sold by the artist to Paul Durand-Ruel, Paris on February 22, 1913 for 50,000 francs [see Durand-Ruel stock no. 10253; this and the following information according to Paris 1988]; sent to Durand-Ruel Gallery in New York, 1917; sold to Mrs. Lewis Larned (Annie Swan) Coburn (died 1932), Chicago on January 19, 1932 for $36,000 or $35,000 [see Durand-Ruel stock no. 4114; the date 1932 given in the Durand-Ruel stockbook contradicts a loan receipt, dated January 23, 1930, for a “Millinery Shop, 1882” from Mrs. L.L. Coburn to the Art Institute of Chicago, copy in curatorial file]; bequeathed to the Art Institute of Chicago, 1933.

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