Saturday, January 2, 2010

Degas in the news

Degas is in the news

Degas has deep roots in New Orleans. His mother was from a rich Creole family and his two brothers raised in France, migrated to New Orleans to seek fortune in the family business.

He spent five months in New Orleans, from October 1872 till March the following year. He was the first and only French Impressionist painter to visit the New World. His family portraits have been the main legacy of this trip. He visited his two brothers and his extended Creole family, whose wealth and subsequent losses was made in cotton trading. One of the painting : "A Cotton Office in New Orleans" is well known and was bought by the Museum of the City of Pau in Southwest of France. Another painting represents his sister-in-law "Portrait of Estelle Musson" and can be viewed at the New Orleans Museum of Art.

This trip was a turning point in his career. It convinced Degas, then thirty-eight years old, that one can only paint what one knows well. Upon his return, he concentrated on the subjects which made him famous later.

He considered New Orleans an exotic place but did not appear to have taken advantage of this in his works. One speculation is that he was unable to enjoy the outdoors due to his eye ailment. He could not tolerate the brightness of the sky.

The book "Degas in New Orleans: a French impressionist in America" gives an extensive review of his trip and discusses the aftermath.

It includes interesting essays relating to Degas and his family, the cotton market, New Orleans society.

The paintings are inspiring contemporary artists, and I found a video on You Tube from songwriter Ronny Elliot, which is worth watching.

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