Following the Manet retrospective in 2010 and Monet in 2011, the Musée d'Orsay associated with the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston presents Edgar Degas (1834-1917). The bias of this exhibition is not to make us rediscover the works of Degas, whose last retrospective was in 1988, but to present a new angle, his female nudes.
Born into a wealthy family, brilliant student, Baccalaureate in hand, Degas turns to an artistic career. It was not until 1855, he was admitted to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts where he learned his art by copying the paintings of great masters and the art of the nude was then regarded as one of most difficult.
Painter and sculptor of genius, especially famous for his dancers, his horse racing, his genre scenes and portraits, it appears that the nude occupied an essential place throughout his artistic career. For 50 years he dedicated to transforming the art of the nude, then academic subject.
Edgar Degas (dit), Gas Hilaire-Germain Edgar de (1834-1917), Femme nue couchée sur le ventre, la tête entre les bras, étude pour Scène de guerre au Moyen Âge, 1863-65. Pierre noire sur vélin, 19,3 x 35,5 cm. Paris, musée d’Orsay. © RMN (Musée d’Orsay) / Stéphane Maréchalle
Degas does not seek to idealize the female body, so they are usually represented in profile or from behind and have not really face. He paints them in their daily lives whether at the toilet or dressing. Their bodies are not beautiful but drawn as they are, Degas does not seek to hide from us the age of his models on the contrary.
The exhibition also presents a series of works, rarely exhibited, and performed by Degas in brothels where it represents the prostitutes in pornographic poses.
At the technical level, Degas uses drawing and pastel but also prints and lithographs. He also resorts to monotype which is a print process without burning with subtle chiaroscuro.
Edgar Degas. Femme s’essuyant, après 1888. Pastel, 62,8 x 46,9 cm. Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Don de Jerome K. Ohrbach. Photo © 2011 Museum Associates / LACMA
The exhibition also allows visitors to understand how the nude in Degas art changes starting from naturalistic accuracy, he will gradually freed to go to the movement and towards the simplification of forms. And Degas appear as fully avant-garde, heir of academic painting, he opens the way to the 20th century. He will admired by Bonnard, Matisse or Picasso.
The Musée d'Orsay displays works by Degas rarely presented to the public because of their fragility, such as drawings and pastels that are sensitive to light.
Rare opportunity to discover works held in public collections in France and abroad as well as in private hands, the exhibition will close on July 1.
Cedric Henon, fine art specialist.
« Degas et le nu »
Until the 1st July 2012
Musée d’Orsay, entrée par le parvis, 1, rue de la Légion d'Honneur, 75007 Paris
Opening: every day except Monday, from 9h30 to 18h, on Thursady until 21h45.
Edgar Degas. Une femme dans une baignoire s’épongeant la jambe, vers 1883. Pastel sur monotype, 19 x 41 cm. Paris, musée d’Orsay, legs du comte Isaac de Camondo, 1911. © Musée d'Orsay, dist. RMN / Patrice Schmidt.