The Paris of the Impressionists was a city of change. Edgar Degas was just one of many artists of the avant-garde who sought to capture this urban dynamism in their work, especially in paintings that depicted the working class. However, late-nineteenth century cities like Paris were also places of danger, as crowded neighborhoods and old infrastructure opened pathways for highly infectious diseases to spread. This lecture will investigate the artistic figure of the laundress against this backdrop of disease and the emerging systems of public health and sanitation that defined urban development in Degas’ Paris.
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