Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Edgar Degas Works on Paper

The Portland Museum of Art presented the exhibition Edgar Degas: The Private Impressionist, on view February 23 through May 28, 2012, which featured compelling works from a private collection that have never been exhibited together publicly. Comprised of more than 100 drawings, prints, pastels, and photographs as well as several sculptures, Edgar Degas: The Private Impressionist provided an insightful exploration into the oeuvre of one of the most skilled and complex artists in history, and granted an unprecedented opportunity to view an impressive private collection formed during the course of 40 years.

The exhibition highlighted an array of works that reflect Degas’ unique Impressionist style. The works demonstrated Degas’ ability to combine his profound appreciation for the Old Masters with his passion for photography, Japanese prints, and his singular “through-the-keyhole” approach. Featuring striking images of ballet dancers behind-the-scenes at the Paris Opéra and women dressing in their boudoirs, Degas captured the private side of Paris. Intimate drawings and prints of his family and friends, including tender depictions of his father, his brother Achille, an Italian niece, his loyal housekeeper Sabine Neyt, and artists Edouard Manet and Mary Cassatt reveal the private world of Degas.

In addition to masterworks by Degas, the exhibition also included a select group of 17 rare works on paper by artists in his circle, including captivating works by such modern masters as Giovanni Boldini, Paul Cézanne, and Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, among others.

To add even greater depth to the exhibition, generous loans to the Portland Museum of Art from major benefactors Scott M. Black and Les Otten were part of the show.

These works, among others, include Degas’ Portrait of Alexis Rouart (1895) and Degas’ sculpture Fourth Position in front on the left leg (1882-1895). Moreover, works of art by artists in his circle from the Museum’s permanent collection were interspersed throughout the exhibition, providing new contexts for the Museum’s European holdings. Paintings and drawings by Jane Sutherland, a contemporary New England artist greatly inspired by Degas, added yet another dimension to the exhibition.

The exhibition was co-curated by Robert Flynn Johnson, Curator Emeritus, Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, along with Louise Siddons, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Art History and Curator at Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Oklahoma. Margaret Burgess, The Susan Donnell and Harry W. Konkel Associate Curator of European Art, is the curator for the exhibition at the Portland Museum of Art. A full-color, fully illustrated catalogue of the exhibition has been published featuring a preface by Ann Dumas, Curator of The Royal Academy, London and a foreword by Robert Flynn Johnson. The exhibition premiered at the Naples Museum of Art, Naples, Florida, in October 2011.

The exhibition was organized by Landau Traveling Exhibitions, Los Angeles, CA and Denenberg Fine Arts, West Hollywood, CA. Corporate sponsorship is provided by Bath Savings Institution and Dead River Company, with media support from WCSH 6 and Mainebiz.

On Display:

Edgar Degas French, 1834 - 1917 Danseuse assise (Seated Dancer), 1894 pastel on joined paper mounted on board 22 3/4 x 17 3/4 inches Scott M. Black Collection. Photo by Melville Mclean.

Edgar Degas French, 1834 - 1917 Le Leçon de Danse (The Dancing Lesson), circa 1877 pastel on monoprint on paper 23 x 28 5/8 inches The Joan Whitney Payson Collection at the Portland Museum of Art. Gift of John Whitney Payson. Photo by Meyersphoto.

Edgar Degas French, 1834 - 1917 Plough Horse, 1860-61 graphite on thin wove paper 6 x 8 3/4 inches Collection of Robert Flynn Johnson. Courtesy Landau Traveling Exhibitions.

Edgar Degas and Auguste Clot Before the Race, 1895 color lithograph on lightweight tan wove paper 19 3/4 x 22 1/2 inches Collection of Robert Flynn Johnson. Courtesy Landau Traveling Exhibitions.

Edgar Degas French, 1834 - 1917 Edgar Degas: Self Portrait, 1857 etching and drypoint, from the canceled plate 10 1/2 x 7 inches Collection of Robert Flynn Johnson. Courtsey Landau Traveling Exhibitions.