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Degas: The Artist's Mind

Degas: The Artist's Mind

Reff, Theodore
352 pages
216 illustrations
7.5 x 10 in
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More than any other artist in the Impressionist group, Degas was fascinated by ideas and consciously based his work on them. "What I do is the result of reflection and study of the great masters," he once confessed, "of inspiration, spontaneity, temperament I know nothing." Yet his work has been understood very inadequately from that point of view. Publications on him, once dominated by memoirs inspired by his remarkable personality, are now concerned with cataloguing and studying limited aspects of his complex art. Its intellectual power and originality, which were evident to contemporary writers like Duranty and Valery, have not been studied sufficiently by more recent critics. It is this side of Degas's art—as seen in his ingenious pictorial strategies and technical innovations, his use of motifs like the window, the mirror, and the picture within the picture, his invention of striking, psychologically compelling compositions, and his creation of a sculptural idiom at once formal and vernacular—that is the subject of these essays. Inevitably, given the range of his intellectual interests, the essays are also concerned with his contacts with leading novelists and poets of his time and his efforts to illustrate or draw inspiration from their works. Throughout, the author makes use of an important, largely unpublished source, the material in Degas's notebooks, on which he has recently published a complete catalogue.

Cremorne Gardens, No. 2, James McNeill Whistler  American, Oil on canvas, American
James McNeill Whistler
ca. 1870–80
Edmond Duranty, Edgar Degas  French, Conté crayon, heightened with white chalk, on blue laid paper
Edgar Degas
Edmond Duranty
Study for the Portrait of Louis-François Bertin (1766–1841), Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres  French, Black chalk and graphite
Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres
A Woman Seated beside a Vase of Flowers (Madame Paul Valpinçon?), Edgar Degas  French, Oil on canvas
Edgar Degas
The Singer in Green, Edgar Degas  French, Pastel on light blue laid paper
Edgar Degas
ca. 1884
Multiple artists/makers
October 6, 1842
Le ventre législatif:  Aspect des bancs ministériels de la chambre improstituée de 1834, Honoré Daumier  French, Lithograph
Honoré Daumier
Association Mensuelle
January 1834
The Orchestra During the Performance of a Tragedy (L'orchestre pendant qu'on joue une tragédie), from Croquis Musicaux, published in Le Charivari,  April 5, 1852, Honoré Daumier  French, Lithograph
Multiple artists/makers
April 5, 1852
Le Charivari, March 16, 1854–December 31, 1857, Honoré Daumier  French, Lithographs and wood engravings
Multiple artists/makers
March 16, 1854–December 31, 1857
The Laundress, Honoré Daumier  French, Oil on oak
Honoré Daumier
The Collector of Prints, Edgar Degas  French, Oil on canvas
Edgar Degas
James-Jacques-Joseph Tissot (1836–1902), Edgar Degas  French, Oil on canvas
Edgar Degas
ca. 1867–68
Sulking, Edgar Degas  French, Oil on canvas
Edgar Degas
ca. 1870
Mary Cassatt at the Louvre: The Etruscan Gallery, Edgar Degas  French, Soft-ground, drypoint, aquatint, and etching; third state of nine
Edgar Degas
Mary Cassatt
A Woman Ironing, Edgar Degas  French, Oil on canvas
Edgar Degas
At the Milliner's, Edgar Degas  French, Pastel on pale gray wove paper (industrial wrapping paper), laid down on silk bolting
Edgar Degas
The Music Room, James McNeill Whistler  American, Etching, printed in black ink on fine antique laid paper with a greenish cast; second state of four (Glasgow)
Multiple artists/makers
Study in the Nude for The Little Fourteen-Year-Old Dancer, Edgar Degas  French, Bronze, French
Edgar Degas
modeled ca. 1878–80, cast 1920
Dressed Dancer at Rest, Hands Behind Her Back, Right Leg Forward (Second State), Edgar Degas  French, Bronze, French
Edgar Degas
A.-A. Hébrard et Cie
modeled possibly ca. 1895, cast 1920
The Apple Pickers, Edgar Degas  French, Bronze, French
Edgar Degas
A.-A. Hébrard et Cie
modeled ca. 1881–83, cast 1920
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———. 1976b. Degas: The Artist’s Mind. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art.