Woman Stretching belongs to the final portion of Edgar Degas’s career, and two features connect it with the artist’s concerns of the period. First, there is the work’s generic, anonymous subject. Despite Degas’s long habit of making sculptures of dancers and schoolgirls, this figure cannot be identified as either one. She is simply a woman engaged in a universal activity, stretching. Second, her pose is an elaborate array of curves and straight lines. In a complex interplay of muscular exertion and skeletal structure, the woman’s motions have culminated in an ephemeral moment of dynamic equipoise. Thus the relatively common nature of both the figure and her activity, combined with the artist’s precise depiction of the human form, accentuate a pursuit that can be found throughout Degas’s works: to uncover the myriad complexities of everyday existence.
Resource: The David and Alfred Smart Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection, Sue Taylor and Richard Born, eds. New York: Hudson Hills Press, 1990, p. 97.