While Degas’ early involvement with the Impressionist painters and his explorations of light and movement led many to consider him an Impressionist, he preferred to be called a Realist. Crossing many genres, his constant experimentation with style and medium made Degas an innovator. He even invented his own method of pigment extraction, known as l’essence. He frequently used pastels to add layers of color and texture to printed monotypes, and his experimentation with photography influenced the interestingly cropped viewpoints of his paintings.
Showing now at the Denver Art Museum, its only American venue, Degas: A Passion for Perfection includes over 100 masterpieces by the French artist. Following its debut at the Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge, the DAM exhibition runs Feb. 11‒May 20, 2018. Edgar Degas’ paintings, drawings, etchings, pastels, monotypes, and bronze sculptures are on view, as well as additional pieces by J.A.D. Ingres, Eugène Delacroix and Paul Cézanne. The exhibition follows Degas’ career from 1855 to 1906, and features some of his more famous works, including the DAM’s own Dance Examination (Examen de Danse), Three Women at the Races (Trois Femmes Aux Courses) and Woman Scratching Her Back.
Initially a historical painter, Degas moved on to explore portraiture, using the more muted palettes associated with old masters. He eventually turned to experiments with bold colors in his dynamic depictions of everyday life. A superb draughtsman, Degas excelled at depicting movement and was famously interested in horses, dancers, and opera. The exhibition traces the development of his style, from psychologically layered portraits to realistically kinetic sculptures and light-filled moments in time.
“Degas was the quintessential independent artist, and this exhibition will give visitors a more intimate look into his creative process,” said Christoph Heinrich, Frederick and Jan Mayer Director of the DAM. “Several moments within the exhibition will encourage close, mindful looking, providing the opportunity for visitors to savor the range of media, subject matter and techniques that defined Degas as an innovator.” Degas believed creating true art required a life of solitude and dedication. As an older man, he took pride in in his reputation as a grumpy old curmudgeon.
Degas: A Passion for Perfection is a special ticketed exhibition, and includes an audio guide. An accompanying book published by Yale University Press is also available in The Shop and online. To learn more, or to purchase tickets, visit https://denverartmuseum.org/exhibitions/degas-passion-perfection