Degas and the Laundress: Women, Work, and the Avant-Garde in 19th-Century Paris

Virginia and Ira Jackson Lecture

Lecture | Degas and the Laundress: Women, Work, and the Avant-Garde in 19th-Century Paris

Speaker: Britany Salsbury, associate curator of prints and drawings, the Cleveland Museum of Art

Edgar Degas (1834–1917) depicted Parisian laundresses in paintings, drawings, and prints throughout his long career. These working-class women were a visible presence in the French capital, washing and ironing in shops open to the street or carrying heavy baskets of clothing—some of the most difficult and poorly paid work at the time. The industry fascinated Degas, and his representations of laundresses were revolutionary in the emphasis on women’s work, the strenuousness of such labor, and social class. 

This lecture examines the development of Degas’s interest in the subject and the significant role it played in 19th-century popular culture and avant-garde art, including that of practitioners from Berthe Morisot and Auguste Renoir to Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and even Pablo Picasso.

Plan Your Visit Admission to the talk is free with seating on a first-come, first-served basis in Brown Auditorium Theater, located in the Law Building. On Thursdays, the Museum is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. with free general admission.

Safety Guidelines In the interest of your personal safety and community health, please observe all precautions set forth by the MFAH—learn more here.

About the Speaker Before joining the Cleveland Museum of Art, Britany Salsbury was associate curator of prints and drawings at the Milwaukee Art Museum, where she organized exhibitions including Degas to Picasso: Creating Modernism in France and Daring Technique: Goya and the Art of Etching.

This lecture receives generous funding from the Virginia and Ira Jackson Endowment Fund at the MFAH.

All Learning and Interpretation programs at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, receive endowment funds provided by Louise Jarrett Moran Bequest; Caroline Wiess Law; Windgate Foundation; the William Randolph Hearst Foundation; Cyvia and Melvyn Wolff; the National Endowment for the Humanities; the Fondren Foundation; BMC Software, Inc.; the Wallace Foundation; the Neal Myers and Ken Black Children’s Art Fund; Mr. and Mrs. A. L. Ballard; Mr. and Mrs. Charles W. Tate; the Eleanor and Frank Freed Foundation; Virginia and Ira Jackson; the Favrot Fund; CFP Foundation; Neiman Marcus Youth Arts Education; gifts in memory of John Wynne; and gifts in honor of Beth Schneider.


Caroline Wiess Law Building
1001 Bissonnet Street
Houston, TX 77005
Map & Directions