The great French artist Edgar Degas (1834–1917) once said, “I would like to be illustrious and unknown.” To a large degree, his wish has been granted. By the time of Degas’ death, more than ninety years ago, his art had become famous; his reputation since then has only grown.
Yet the individual who was so accomplished in many artistic endeavors—from drawing, painting, and printmaking to sculpture and photography—has remained elusive. Unjustly labeled a misogynist because of his frank depiction of women, and a cynic because of his biting wit, Degas was, rather, arguably the keenest artistic observer of human nature since Rembrandt. And, although often aloof to strangers, Degas shared warmth and loyalty with his family as well as with a wide circle of friends, which included some of the greatest writers and artists of the epoch.
The works by Degas in this exhibition consist of twenty-four drawings, twenty prints, eight photographs, three monotypes, one sculpture, and a letter, all from a single private collection. The collection endeavors to illuminate the background and personality of Edgar Degas the man, as well as to present his genius as an artist. The subject matter of these works by Degas is often quite personal. In addition to three rare self-portraits, the collection includes depictions of his father, his brother Achille, an Italian niece, his loyal housekeeper Sabine Neyt, and the wife of a patron, Madame Ernest May; three portraits of Édouard Manet and two of Mary Cassatt; and drawings after antique sculpture and Old Masters such as Mantegna and Michelangelo. Works touch upon three notable themes of Degas’ oeuvre: the human body, horse racing, and the ballet. Also included is a group of brilliant color aquatints after Degas monotypes by Maurice Potin, which were commissioned shortly after the artist’s death by the owner of the original monotypes, Degas’ friend and dealer, Ambroise Vollard. An additional selection of more than forty rare works of art on paper enriches the exhibition. These pieces are by well-known artists, many of whom were friends of Degas.
Enriching the exhibition are an additional selection of more than forty rare works of art on paper by well-known artists, many of whom were friends of Degas, including Giovanni Boldini, Mary Cassatt, Paul Cézanne, Marcellin Desboutin, Jean-Hippolyte Flandrin, Jean-Léon Gérôme, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Alphonse Legros, Adolph von Menzel, Gustave Moreau, Henri Regnault, William Rothenstein, Alfred Stevens, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and Joseph-Gabriel Tourny. The exhibition is further enhanced by several drawings by Pierre-Georges Jeanniot, one of Degas’ closest friends during the final decades of his life. The group of Jeanniot drawings comprises portraits of the sculptor Albert Bartholomé and Degas’ younger disciple Jean-Louis Forain, three self-portraits, and two exceedingly rare portraits of Degas himself, who was famous for his reluctance to pose. These works have never before been exhibited together publicly and provide a delightful exploration into the art and personality of one of the most skilled, intelligent, and complex artists in the history of art.
A full color catalog with a preface by Degas expert, Ann Dumas, Curator of The Royal Academy of Art, London has been published.
This exhibition is co-curated by Robert Flynn Johnson, Curator Emeritus of the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.and Louise Siddons, Ph.D., Assistant Professor and Curator of Collections at Oklahoma State University, Stillwater.
The exhibition was organized by Landau Traveling Exhibitions, Los Angeles, CA, in association with Denenberg Fine Arts, West Hollywood, CA.