The Ironers Essay

735 Words3 Pages
The Ironers Imagine a miserable late 19th century textile factory, the stuffy air, the overcrowded space, and the backbreaking labor forced upon the employees. Edgar Degas’ “The Ironers” provides a snapshot into the daily lives of two laundresses, who both are struggling to get through the day. On the left side, the woman with the bottle in her hand yawns in exhaustion, while the one on the right strains to iron the garment. Her locked arms and body stance both advocate the fact that she struggles with her job. However, her coworker, the woman on the left, holds a green bottle, presumably some sort of alcohol that she drinks to cope with the hardships of her life. Both her rigid appearance and the yawn on her face evoke a weary feeling in the viewer, and give the perception that she is frustrated with the confines of her job. When one first glances at the painting, the fuzzy appearance, and the dejected appearance of the woman are the most distinct aspects of the painting. Degas’ use of body positioning gives both of the women the look of a machine; while one strains down on the iron, the other yawns in exhaustion. The up and down postures of the two women present the viewer with the image of some sort of piston, a hard-working, efficient machine. Numerous wrinkles on the women’s clothes and their radical appearance as a whole highlight the nature of both their lifestyles, and their jobs. Moreover, Degas’ use of contrasting colors in the foreground emphasize the woman’s position in the painting as well. Lastly, the spatial arrangement of the background gives the room an immensely cramped feel, similar to most factory conditions of that era. Degas’ use of cool colors in the background, green and dark blue, further arouse a gloomy feeling in the viewer, and give the painting a melancholy semblance. Furthermore, the outfits worn by the two girls contribute to Degas’
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