Published: June 5, 2001
Degas and America Makes Its Way to the Midwest
MINNEAPOLIS, MINN. – The Upper Midwest’s first major exhibition of the work of revered French Impressionist, Edgar Degas, will open June 21, at The Minneapolis Institute of Art. “Degas & America: The Early Collectors” will be on view on the museums’ Target Gallery through September 9.
This long-anticipated exhibition is a one-in-a-lifetime opportunity to explore more than 75 Degas works – the jewels of collections from across America. There will be paintings, pastels, drawings, prints, and sculptures assembled for the exhibition. The artist’s fabled sculptures of ballerinas in rehearsal and backstage, included “Little Dancer of Fourteen Years” (1879-81, cast 1924-31) from the collection of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, will be included. In Degas’s horse-racing scenes, viewers will discover why he was celebrated as the “master of motion.” His portraits of friends and fellow painters Mary Cassatt and Edouard Manet are wonderfully engaging.
“Degas has the distinction of being the only French Impressionist ever to visit America,” co-curator Ann Dumas says in her catalogue essay. “In the fall and winter of 1872 to 1873, he spent about four months with his American relatives…in their native New Orleans. Although this trip produced a number of portraits of Degas’s American relatives, it had no impact on the market for Degas’s work on this side of the Atlantic.” According to Dumas, it was not until 1878 that the first work by Degas was publicly displayed in America.
“Degas & America” is the first exhibition ever to tell the fascinating story of how pioneering collectors in America first acquired Degas’s works. Like his fellow Impressionists, Degas did not enjoy immediate acceptance in America, but several people showed an early interest in his art.
This exhibition is a testimony to the vision of such early collectors as New York sugar millionaire, Louisine Havemeyer, who, on the advice of her friend Mary Cassatt, was the first to amass a significant collection of Degas’s work (bequeathed to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1929). Avid collectors included Mrs Potter Palmer in Chicago, Denman Waldo Ross in Boston, Robert Sterling Clark (bequeathed to the Clark Art Institute), Duncan Philips (bequeathed to The Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C.), The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, The Pierpont Morgan Library in New York, and other lenders to this exhibition.
The ensuing passion for Degas’s work was fired by private collectors, art dealers, critics, and teachers. As a result, magnificent American collections were built, including those from which this exhibition was drawn. A number of Degas icons are included in the selection made available for “Degas & America.” Among them are “Race Horses at Longchamp,” 1873-75, an oil painting on canvas from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. S.A. Denio Collection; “A Woman Seated Beside a Vase of Flowers (Madame Paul Valpincon?)” 1865, an oil painting on canvas from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, H.O. Havemeyer Collection; “Woman Washing Her Hair,” 1896-1911, cast 1931, a bronze sculpture from the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution; “Three Dancers in Yellow Skirts” circa 1891, an oil painting on canvas from the Armand Hammer Collection at UCLA Hammer Museum; and “Mlle. Becat at the Café des Ambassadeurs,” 1885, pastel over lithograph from The Pierpont Morgan Library’s Thaw Collection.
“Degas & America” was organized by the High Museum of Art in collaboration with The Minneapolis Institute of Arts.
Curators of the exhibition are David Brenneman; Frances B. Bunzl,Family Curator of European Art; High Museum of Art, and Ann Dumas, independent curator and art historian. The exhibition will be presented in Minneapolis under the guidance of Patrick Noon; Patrick and Aimee Butler, Curator of Paintings; The Minneapolis Institute of Arts.
The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 2400 Third Avenue South, is a free museum operated for the benefit of the general public.
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