Edgar Degas and the Nude

Posted filed underFrance, Impressionism, Sexuality, Shows.

The new exhibition at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris
(until July 1, 2012) explores Edgar Degas‘s evolution in his practice of the nude. Nudes are presented through all of the techniques used by Degas, including painting, sculpture, drawing, printing and above all pastel, which he brought to its highest degree of achievement.

Nude figures are central to the work of Edgar Degas (1834-1917), from his early works in the first half of the 1850s to the final years of his artistic activity on the eve of the First World War. Even more than the dancers, the scenes of horse racing and urban life, or the portraits that made him famous, the nude was the genre Degas used to introduce new ideas and develop his style over the course of almost fifty years.

Degas was noted for his innovative temperament, which expressed itself in many different areas. The works brought together here have been selected because they show the variety of techniques that Degas tackled in his search for new expressive possibilities.
In addition to drawing and painting, the artist was particularly fond of pastel as it could be used spontaneously with no preparation or drying time, giving him the option to rework the image. Degas was also renowned for having rediscovered the principle of the “monotype”, a print that does not require engraving, which he sometimes highlighted with pastel. He also tried his hand at etching, lithography and particularly at sculpture, which increasingly occupied him as his sight failed in the late 1880s.

And so this first monographic exhibition devoted to the nude enables us to trace the whole of the artist’s career, through all the media he used, from his early academic training to his most radical and simplified figures, and including his Naturalist years. Degas no longer put forward an idealised nude, but rather a representation of the naked body, unheard of until then. This exhibition also places Degas’ work in the context of the time when it was created, through a selection of works produced during his lifetime by artists who influenced him (Ingres, Delacroix), those who worked at the same time (Caillebotte, Renoir) or those he inspired (Matisse, Picasso).
This exhibition aims to help explain why Degas occupies such an important place in the history of 19th century art, highlighting his ability to bring together the classical culture of his era and the avant-garde movements of the 20th century, through works that are seldom exhibited together because of their fragility and their diversity.

Read on at the Musée d’Orsay, Paris

Image above: Edgar Degas (1834-1917)Woman at her Bath1893-1898