Degas: A Passion for Perfection will showcase prolific French artist Edgar Degas’ works from 1855 to 1906. More than 100 works consisting of paintings, drawings, pastels, etchings, monotypes, and sculptures in bronze will be on view. The exhibition will focus on the most prominent and recurring themes throughout Degas’ 60-year career. These include his interest in learning from the art of the past and from that of his contemporaries, a lifelong fascination with the nude, a passion for horses, and his strong interest in opera and dance.
Well-known masterpieces will be on view, and the exhibition also will dive deeper into Degas’ obsession with repetition of subjects throughout his entire artistic journey. Visitors will see his transformation from a portraitist and painter of historical subjects to one interested in the contemporary life of late-nineteenth-century Paris. By experimenting constantly throughout his career he developed techniques that allowed him to capture modern subject matter through sharp and precise lighting, such as café concerts, street scenes with new electric lighting, sporting events, and theatrical settings. He considered his work in all media a constant continuum. Works by J.A.D. Ingres, Eugène Delacroix, and Paul Cézanne also will be shown, adding depth to the exhibition’s narrative.
The DAM is the sole American venue for the exhibition. Degas: A Passion for Perfection is presented and organized in association with the Fitzwilliam Museum at the University of Cambridge, England, whose Degas holdings represent the most extensive in the United Kingdom across the various media in which Degas worked. The exhibition is organized by Jane Munro, Keeper of Paintings, Drawings and Prints at the Fitzwilliam Museum, and curated locally by Timothy J. Standring, Gates Family Foundation Curator of Painting and Sculpture at the DAM.
Whether you go or not, the exhibition catalog, Degas: A Passion for Perfection, presents an exceptional array of Edgar Degas’s work, including paintings, drawings, pastels, etchings, monotypes, counter proofs, and sculpture, with approximately sixty key works from private and public collections in Europe and the United States, some of them published here for the first time. Shown together, the impressive works represent well over half a century of innovation and artistic production. Degas’s (1834–1917) relentless experimentation with technical procedures is a hallmark of his lifelong desire to learn. The numerous iterations of compositions and poses suggest an intense self-discipline, as well as a refusal to accept any creative solution as definitive or finite.
Published in the centenary year of the artist’s death, the book includes essays by leading Degas scholars and conservation scientists explore his practice and recurring themes of the human figure and landscape. The book opens with a study of Degas’s debt to the Old Masters, and it concludes with a consideration of his artistic legacy and his influence on leading artists of the 20th and 21st centuries, including Francis Bacon, Frank Auerbach, Ryan Gander, David Hockney, Howard Hodgkin, R. B. Kitaj, Pablo Picasso, and Walter Sickert.
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