Degas: An Intimate Portrait

Degas: An Intimate Portrait

Degas: An Intimate Portrait

Degas: An Intimate Portrait

Excerpt

Hilaire Germain Edgar Degas had the misfortune to be identified against his will with a "school." From the day he joined forces with the Society of Painters, Sculptors and Gravers, later dubbed Impressionists, and exhibited at Nadar's photographic gallery on the rue des Capucines, he too became known among that contemptuous general, to whom he was not caviar, as an Impressionist.

What a fate! It was as if Poussin had been accused of vulgar realism, or Delacroix rated a classicist because his productive years paralleled those of David's feeble followers. For plein-air, the war-cry of Monet and his group, was anathema to Degas, even though he continued to exhibit with the Impressionists. At a Monet exhibition he turned up his coat-collar for fear of catching cold; too draughty, he said. With his feet firmly planted in tradition, Degas' constant search was for plastic movement, and yet, because his line was freer and looser than Ingres', and his color, even in his early work, more lucid than the run of contemporary bitumen, he was lumped willy-nilly with the rising group whose very tenets he disdained.

In fact Degas' career, in relation to these contemporaries of his, was much like Chardin's. While Boucher . . .

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