The Laundress

Honoré Daumier (French, Marseilles 1808–1879 Valmondois)

Oil on wood
19 1/4 x 13 in. (48.9 x 33 cm)
Credit Line:
Bequest of Lillie P. Bliss, 1931
Accession Number:
  • Gallery Label

    This painting depicts a subject visible from Daumier’s studio on the quai d'Anjou in Paris: laundresses returning from laundry boats moored on the Seine. Despite the weight of her bulky load, the woman tenderly extends her hand to help a child up the steps of the embankment. With her sturdy form silhouetted against a bright background, the humble worker acquires a certain monumentality. This picture is the largest and possibly the last of three painted versions of the composition; Daumier’s pigments have deteriorated, obscuring the last digit of the date inscribed at the lower left, but in 1893 it was recorded as 1863.

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Inscription: Signed and dated (lower left): h. Daumier / 186[3?]

  • Provenance

    Adolphe-Victor Geoffroy-Dechaume, Valmondois (by 1878–d. 1892; his estate sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, April 14–15, 1893, no. 24, as "Sortie du bateau à lessive," for Fr 5,400); Paul Gallimard, Paris (by 1900–probably 1926; sold to Hodebert); [Hodebert, Paris, 1926/27]; [?Alex Reid and Lefevre, London, 1927]; [Knoedler, London and New York, 1927; sold to Bliss]; Lizzie (Lillie) P. Bliss, New York (1927–d. 1931; bequeathed to Museum of Modern Art); Museum of Modern Art, New York (1931–47; transferred on September 15, 1947 to MMA)

  • Exhibition History

    Paris. Galeries Durand-Ruel. "Daumier," April 17–June 15, 1878, no. 37 (as "Sortie du bateau à lessive," lent by M. Geoffroy-Dechaume).

    Paris. Exposition Internationale Universelle. "Exposition Centennale de l'art français (1800–1889)," May–November 1900, no. 180 (as "Femme remontant du lavoir aux quais de la Seine," lent by M. Gallimard).

    Paris. Palais de l'École des Beaux-Arts. "Exposition Daumier," May 1901, no. 42 (as "Le Linge," lent by Gallimard).

    Paris. Galerie Eugène Blot. "Daumier," 1908, no. 6.

    Copenhagen. Musée Royal de Copenhague. "Exposition d'art français du XIXe siècle," May 15–June 30, 1914, no. 61 (as "Laveuse du quai d'Anjou," lent by P. Gallimard).

    Copenhagen. Statens Museum for Kunst. "Exposition d'art français du XIXe siècle," 1917, no. 314 [see Maison 1968].

    Basel. Société des beaux-arts. "Exposition de peinture française," 1918, no. 35 [see Maison 1968].

    Basel. Société des beaux-arts. "Exposition de peinture française," May 8–June 30, 1921, no. 51 (as "Le Linge," lent by M. Gallimard).

    New York. Museum of Modern Art. "Corot–Daumier," October 16–November 23, 1930, no. 80 (lent from a private collection, New York).

    New York. Museum of Modern Art. "Memorial Exhibition: The Collection of the Late Miss Lizzie P. Bliss, Vice-President of the Museum," May 17–September 27, 1931, no. 23.

    Andover, Mass. Addison Gallery of American Art. "The Collection of Miss Lizzie P. Bliss: Fourth Loan Exhibition," October 17–December 15, 1931, no. 23.

    Indianapolis. John Herron Art Institute. "Modern Masters from the Collection of Miss Lizzie P. Bliss," January 1932, no. 23.

    Northampton, Mass. Smith College Museum of Art. January–February 1933 [see Barr and Klein 1934].

    New York. Museum of Modern Art. "The Lillie P. Bliss Collection," May 14–September 12, 1934, no. 22.

    Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. "Independent Painters of Nineteenth Century Paris," March 15–April 28, 1935, no. 3 (lent by the Lillie P. Bliss collection, Museum of Modern Art).

    Los Angeles Museum. "The Development of Impressionism," January 12–February 28, 1940, no. 13 (lent by the Museum of Modern Art, New York).

    New York. World's Fair. "Masterpieces of Art: European & American Paintings, 1500–1900," May–October 1940, no. 258 (lent by The Museum of Modern Art, Lillie P. Bliss Collection, New York).

    New York. Wildenstein. "From Paris to the Sea Down the River Seine," January 28–February 27, 1943, no. 6 (lent by the Museum of Modern Art, New York).

    Toledo Museum of Art. "The Spirit of Modern France: An Essay on Painting in Society, 1745–1946," November–December 1946, no. 28 (lent by the Museum of Modern Art, New York).

    Art Gallery of Toronto. "The Spirit of Modern France: An Essay on Painting in Society, 1745–1946," January–February 1947, no. 28.

    Ottawa. National Gallery of Canada. "Daumier, 1808–1879," June 11–September 6, 1999, no. 163.

    Paris. Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais. "Daumier, 1808–1879," October 5, 1999–January 3, 2000, no. 163.

    Washington. Phillips Collection. "Daumier, 1808–1879," February 19–May 14, 2000, no. 163.

    Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. "The Masterpieces of French Painting from The Metropolitan Museum of Art: 1800–1920," February 4–May 6, 2007, no. 18.

    Berlin. Neue Nationalgalerie. "Französische Meisterwerke des 19.Jahrhunderts aus dem Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York," June 1–October 7, 2007, unnumbered cat.

  • References

    Duranty. "Daumier (2e et dernier article)." Gazette des beaux-arts, 2nd ser., 17 (June 1878), pp. 538, 544, states erroneously that the painting then belonging to Geoffroy-Dechaume (ours) was exhibited at the Salon of 1861.

    G. Puissant. "Exposition de l'œuvre de Daumier." La Lanterne (April 20, 1878), p. 2.

    Arsène Alexandre. Honoré Daumier: L'Homme et l'œuvre. Paris, 1888, pp. 352, 375, calls it "Sortie du bâteau à lessive".

    Julius Meier-Graefe. Entwicklungsgeschichte der Modernen Kunst. Stuttgart, 1904, vol. 1, p. 97, states that of the three or four versions of the composition, this painting is the most finished, citing the clarity of the buildings in the background.

    Erich Klossowski. Honoré Daumier. Munich, 1908, pp. 98–99, [137], no. 224, pl. 55.

    Léon Rosenthal. Daumier. Paris, [1911], pp. 91–92, pl. 38, as in a private collection.

    Tyge Möller. "Correspondance de Danemark: L'Éxposition de l'art français du XIXe siècle à Copenhague." Gazette des Beaux-Arts, 4th ser., 12 (August 1914), p. 160.

    Raymond Escholier. Daumier: Peintre et Lithographe. Paris, 1923, p. 152 [2nd ed., 1930], relates an account by M. Régereault regarding the spoiling of this painting due to the "funeste alliage du bitume et du blanc frais"; considers this version unlocated.

    Erich Klossowski. Honoré Daumier. 2nd rev. ed. Munich, 1923, p. 106, no. 224, pl. 95.

    Michael Sadleir. Daumier: The Man and the Artist. London, 1924, pl. 18, as in the Gallimard collection.

    Eduard Fuchs. Der Maler Daumier. Munich, 1927, pp. 17, 28, 49, no. 73, pl. 73 [2nd rev. ed., 1930], states that there are several versions of this composition, listing the one currently at the Musée d'Orsay, Paris (M I-160).

    Art News 29 (May 23, 1931), p. 15, ill.

    A[lbert] H. B[arr]., Jr. Memorial Exhibition: The Collection of the Late Miss Lizzie P. Bliss, Vice-President of the Museum. Exh. cat., Museum of Modern Art. New York, 1931, pp. 11, 14, 21, no. 23, ill.

    Alfred H. Barr Jr. and Jerome Klein. The Lillie P. Bliss Collection. Exh. cat., Museum of Modern Art. New York, 1934, pp. 39–41, no. 22, ill., tentatively call this picture the final version since it is the largest, the most finished, and the only one that is dated; call it "almost certainly" the one exhibited at the 1861 Salon.

    Charles Sterling. Daumier: Peintures, aquarelles, dessins. Exh. cat., Musée de l'Orangerie. Paris, 1934, p. 50, under no. 13, erroneously states that Geoffroy-Dechaume and Gallimard owned two different paintings; mistakenly identifies the Orsay version as no. 37 in Exh. Paris 1878.

    Sam A. Lewisohn. Painters and Personality: A Collector's View of Modern Art. [New York], 1937, pp. xii, 67, pl. 35.

    A Treasury of Art Masterpieces, from the Renaissance to the Present Day. New York, 1939, p. 490, colorpl. 119, dates it 1861.

    The Development of Impressionism. Exh. cat., Los Angeles Museum. 1940, unpaginated no. 13, ill., dates it 1861 and states that there are two other versions.

    Walter Pach in Masterpieces of Art: Catalogue of European and American Paintings, 1500–1900. Exh. cat., World's Fair. New York, 1940, p. 180, no. 258, dates it 1861 or 1863.

    Jean Adhémar. Honoré Daumier. Paris, [1954], p. 124, under no. 114, identifies the Paris version (M I-160) as the one shown at the 1861 Salon; repeats Sterling's [Ref. 1934] erroneous listing of Gallimard and Geoffroy-Dechaume as the owners of two separate pictures; states that Daumier made a replica of the composition for his friend Geoffroy-Dechaume in 1863.

    Gerhart Ziller. Honoré Daumier. Dresden, 1957, colorpl. 93.

    K. E. Maison. Letter to Theodore Rousseau. September 17, 1960, confirms Gallimard and, providing the inscription reads 1863, Geoffroy-Dechaume as former owners of this picture.

    K. E. M[aison]. "Daumier's Painted Replicas." Gazette des beaux-arts, 6th ser., 57 (1961), pp. 370–71, 377 n. 1.

    K. E. Maison in Daumier: Paintings and Drawings. Exh. cat., Tate Gallery. [London], 1961, p. 40, under no. 72, dates it 1863; tentatively identifies the Albright-Knox version (M I-84) as the first of the three.

    Charles Sterling and Margaretta M. Salinger. "XIX Century." French Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 2, New York, 1966, pp. 40–43, ill., state that it was painted for Geoffroy-Dechaume, Daumier's friend and neighbor; assert that either the Orsay or Albright-Knox versions was exhibited at the Salon of 1861 based on a review describing a picture of a laundress whose size was equivalent to two opened hands; discuss the early deterioration of this painting's surface, adding that its signature and provenance confirm its authenticity.

    K. E. Maison. "The Paintings." Honoré Daumier: Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings, Watercolours, and Drawings. 1, Greenwich, Conn., 1968, pp. 96–97, 136–37, no. I-159, pl. 42, proposes the following chronological sequence for the three versions: Albright-Knox (1855–56), MMA (1863), Orsay (1863–64); states that the Albright-Knox picture must have been the one exhibited at the Salon of 1861; calls ours Daumier's only dated work, noting that it "was almost certainly painted" for Geoffroy-Dechaume.

    Gabriele Mandel in L'opera pittorica completa di Daumier. Milan, 1971, p. 106, no. 207, ill.

    Theodore Reff. "Degas: A Master among Masters." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 34 (Spring 1977), p. 31, fig. 54 (color), comments that this picture probably inspired Degas's "Woman Ironing, Seen Against the Light" (about 1882; National Gallery of Art, Washington).

    Katy Kline in Painting and Sculpture From Antiquity to 1942. Exh. cat., Albright-Knox Art Gallery. New York, 1979, p. 208, dates it 186[3]; calls the Albright picture "probably the earliest of several versions".

    Sarah Symmons. Daumier. London, 1979, p. 75, under no. 53.

    Theodore Reff. Manet and Modern Paris. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, 1982, p. 48, under no. 8, fig. 26, compares the "heroic laundresses" painted by Daumier to those in Armand Guillaumin's picture "The Pont Louis Philippe" (1875; National Gallery of Art, Washington).

    Eunice Lipton. Looking into Degas: Uneasy Images of Women and Modern Life. Berkeley, 1986, p. 123, dates it about 1863.

    Kirk Varnedoe. "The Evolving Torpedo: Changing Ideas of the Collection of Painting and Sculpture of The Museum of Modern Art." Studies in Modern Art. The Museum of Modern Art at Mid-Century: Continuity and Change. 5, New York, 1995, p. 63 n. 9, notes that Lillie P. Bliss stipulated in her will that this picture would become the property of the MMA if the Museum of Modern Art no longer wanted it; quotes a 1947 inter-museum agreement describing it as "'more appropriately a part of the collection of the older institution'".

    Michael Pantazzi in Daumier, 1808–1879. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Canada. Ottawa, 1999, pp. 231, 303, 313–14, 348, 491, no. 163, ill. (color), dates it 1861?–1863?; considers it possible that our picture was exhibited at the 1861 Salon based on Ref. Duranty 1878, though more likely that the Salon picture was the Albright-Knox version; suggests that the Orsay picture was executed second, perhaps begun in 1861 and intended for the Salon, noting that it originally followed the Albright-Knox version more closely and that its revisions were "incorporated in the third [MMA] version".

    Rona Roob. "Patrons: A Noble Legacy." Art in America 91 (November 2003), pp. 78–79, 81, ill. p. 76 (color), states that this was the version exhibited at the Salon of 1861; refers to it as one of Bliss's favorite works.

    Richard R. Brettell and Stephen F. Eisenman. Nineteenth-Century Art in the Norton Simon Museum. 1, New Haven, 2006, p. 129.

    Kathryn Calley Galitz in Masterpieces of European Painting, 1800–1920, in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2007, pp. 46, 238, no. 43, ill. (color and black and white), dates it 186[3?].

    Kathryn Calley Galitz in The Masterpieces of French Painting from The Metropolitan Museum of Art: 1800–1920. Exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. New York, 2007, pp. 38, 204–5, no. 18, ill. (color and black and white), dates it 1863 and calls it "possibly the last of three painted versions".

  • Notes

    The other two versions of this composition are in the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo and the Musée d'Orsay, Paris (Maison nos. I-84, I-160).

  • See also