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  • Writer's pictureBeyond the Canvas

Flashback no. 1: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles (5 March 2017)

There are many reasons to visit the Getty Centre, which is nestled in the hills overlooking West Los Angeles. The first is probably its unique architecture, one of Richard Meier's most visionary and iconic achievements. The second is the oddly serene view that can be enjoyed from the beautifully landscaped gardens. The museum's collection is also quite impressive, and it was it difficult to pick just one work for this post.

Then I remembered being struck by this delightful Degas. I love the discreet intimacy of the scene, the way he captured the mood of the milliners, almost spying from above on the apparent indifference between them. These women are tired, probably overworked and in no mood for chit chat. Look at those unrolled ribbons on the table, there is still so much sewing to be done.

But it's the unusual composition that sets this picture apart. Those towering hat stands in the foreground, which Degas painted so sketchily they almost look unfinished, create a sort of barrier between the viewer and the milliners. The women are isolated in their world of repetitive labour, and Degas draws attention to the one the left as she stares into space looking decidedly exhausted.

With the exception of the bright ribbons, I find that the muted palette really conveys the gloominess of the space around them. This is an overall very sympathetic depiction of one of Degas' favourite subjects, which I much prefer to the dancers and bathers.

Edward Degas, The Milliners (about 1882-before 1905), The J.Paul Getty Museum.

Photos all mine (including the selfie with my darling friend Alice May).

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