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Degas, 1834-1917

Degas, 1834–1917

Boggs, Jean Sutherland, Douglas W. Druick, Henri Loyrette, Michael Pantazzi, and Gary Tinterow
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Degas, the catalogue of the first large-scale retrospective exhibition of the work of Edgar Degas (1834–1917) to be held in more than fifty years, is the permanent record of the 1988–89 exhibition jointly organized by the Réunion des Musées Nationaux, Paris, The National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Comprehensive in scope and definitive in nature, this volume includes paintings, pastels, drawings, monotypes, prints, photographs, and sculpture representing every aspect of the career of one of the protean artists of the nineteenth century. As a result of extensive research conducted in libraries, archives, and private collections in Europe and North America, dozens of previously unpublished letters and hundreds of little-known documents here provide an unparalleled source of information on the life of this extraordinary artist, bringing to a new level of precision our understanding of his working methods, his subjects, and his patrons.

In recent years, there has been a spate of publications devoted to the work of Degas. All of them have been defined either by the specific character of a particular collection, or by thematic or chronological divisions. The present volume, five years in the making, unites all the various facets of Degas's artistic personality and presents his oeuvre as a totality, rich in its variety, relentless in its experimentation, and constant in its commitment to the human figure portrayed within the context of modern urban life.

The book is divided into four sections, each corresponding to a period in Degas's life: his work as a student in Rome until the 1872 trip to New Orleans; early maturity, 1873–81; mid-career, 1881–90; and late work, 1891–1912. Each section is introduced by a general essay and a detailed chronology that identifies the central issues and events—trips abroad, exhibitions, sales to dealers, contacts with other artists, and cultural outings—relevant to those years of the artist's life. Each of the 392 works in the exhibition is fully illustrated and discussed in individual entries that include a selected bibliography, a list of exhibitions, and a complete history of previous owners. The evolution, through exquisite preparatory drawings, of the artist's ambitious history paintings of the 1860s is fully documented. Great family portraits, such as the monumental Bellelli Family of the 1860s, are considered in relation to Degas's self-portraits and portraits of his colleagues Tissot, Cassatt, and Manet. Degas's lively depictions of racetrack scenes and jockeys are examined in works ranging from the 1860s to the early 1900s. His ballet pictures are studied with equal comprehensiveness, from his first treatment of the subject to such key paintings of the 1870s as the two versions of The Dance Class to the last brilliantly worked pastels. Each of the series of Degas's maturity—laundresses, milliners, brothel scenes, landscapes, and bathers—is documented with major works in oil or pastel and supplemented by related drawings, bronzes, monotypes, and prints. A special effort has been made to include works that are little known (for example, Degas's photographs), and an emphasis has been placed on works made early in the artist's career—largely in Italy—and late in his life, when he achieved in his bathers, coiffures, and dancers a powerful fusion of bold line and intense color.

The Dance Class, Edgar Degas  French, Oil on canvas
The Old Italian Woman, Edgar Degas  French, Oil on canvas
Study of a Draped Figure, Edgar Degas  French, Graphite heightened with white gouache
Portrait of the Artist, Mary Cassatt  American, Watercolor, gouache on wove paper laid down to buff-colored wood-pulp paper, American
Paul Poujaud, Mme. Arthur Fontaine, and Degas, Edgar Degas  French, Gelatin silver print
Madame Jacques-Louis Leblanc (Françoise Poncelle, 1788–1839), Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres  French, Oil on canvas
Jacques-Louis Leblanc (1774–1846), Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres  French, Oil on canvas
A Woman Seated beside a Vase of Flowers (Madame Paul Valpinçon?), Edgar Degas  French, Oil on canvas
Sulking, Edgar Degas  French, Oil on canvas
ca. 1870
Madame Théodore Gobillard (Yves Morisot, 1838–1893), Edgar Degas  French, Oil on canvas
Study for “Madame Théodore Gobillard” (Yves Morisot), Edgar Degas  French, Graphite, squared, on buff tracing paper, mounted on laid paper
Study for “Madame Théodore Gobillard” (Yves Morisot), Edgar Degas  French, Graphite
Madame Théodore Gobillard (Yves Morisot), Edgar Degas  French, Pastel
The Ballet from "Robert le Diable", Edgar Degas  French, Oil on canvas
The Dancing Class, Edgar Degas  French, Oil on wood
ca. 1870
The Rehearsal of the Ballet Onstage, Edgar Degas  French, Oil colors freely mixed with turpentine, with traces of watercolor and pastel over pen-and-ink drawing on cream-colored wove paper, laid down on bristol board and mounted on canvas
ca. 1874
The Rehearsal Onstage, Edgar Degas  French, Pastel over brush-and-ink drawing on thin cream-colored wove paper, laid down on bristol board and mounted on canvas
ca. 1874
Dancer Adjusting Her Slipper, Edgar Degas  French, Graphite heightened with black and white chalk on pink wove paper (now faded); squared for transfer
Seated Dancer, Edgar Degas  French, Graphite and charcoal heightened with white on pink wove paper;squared for transfer
Two Dancers, Edgar Degas  French, Dark brown wash and white gouache on bright pink commercially coated wove paper, now faded to pale pink
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View Citations

———. 1976b. Degas: The Artist’s Mind. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art.