In 1882, Edgar Degas produced The Milliners, an oil on canvas painting that showcases the physical hardships of millinery work. This work is part of Degas’s series of over 20 paintings, pastels, and drawings of millinery shops. The painting features a diagonal composition that highlights the luxurious hats, decorated with blue, red, and white trims on the table. Degas’s portrayal of the milliner’s private space is voyeuristic and empathetic.
The exhibition examines the significance of millinery shops and hat makers in 19th century society. Degas was the only modern painter to focus on this subject with such frequency. The Milliners is a remarkable piece that captures the bustling atmosphere of a millinery shop. The artwork’s dimensions are 30 x 34 in., and it is an oil on canvas painting.
It was not uncommon for Degas to focus on the working-class and their struggles in his art. The Milliners is part of his broader studies of ordinary occupations, such as dancers, laundresses, and milliners. Here, he highlights the physically demanding nature of their work as they strive to produce the luxury hats seen in the painting. Overall, The Milliners stands as a testament to Degas’s artistic prowess in capturing the everyday struggles of working-class individuals, making their private worlds visible to the world.