Published: October 11, 2011
The first museum exhibition devoted exclusively to the range of nudes by Edgar Degas †tracing their evolution from the artist’s early years, through the private and public images of brothels and bathers in the 1870s and 1880s, to the post-Impressionist nudes of the end of his career †is presented by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), and the Musée d’Orsay, Paris.
“Degas and the Nude” is on view through February 5 at the MFA, Boston, offering a groundbreaking examination of Degas’ concept of the human body during the course of 50 years by showing his work within the broader context of his forebears, contemporaries and followers in Nineteenth Century France, among them Ingres, Delacroix, Cassatt, Caillebotte, Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec, Matisse and Picasso.
Assembled from the collections of more than 50 lenders from around the world are approximately 165 works †145 by Degas †including paintings, pastels, drawings, monotypes, etchings, lithographs and sculptures, many of which have never previously been on view in the United States. After its debut in the MFA’s Ann and Graham Gund Gallery, †its only US venue †”Degas and the Nude” will be shown at the Musée d’Orsay from March 12 to July 1.
The Nineteenth Century French artist Edgar Degas (1834‱917), a founding member of the Impressionist group who gravitated toward Realism, is acclaimed for his mastery of a wide range of genres, which he executed in all media using a variety of techniques. In addition to his famous depictions of ballet dancers or racing subjects, Degas’ work also included history paintings, portraits, landscapes and scenes of urban leisure.
This exhibition, however, focuses entirely on his nudes, illustrating the transformation of Degas’ treatment of the human form throughout half a century †from early life drawings in the 1850s to overtly sexual imagery to gritty realist nudes and beyond to the lyrical and dynamic bodies of the last decade of his working life when the theme dominated his artistic production in all media.
“‘Degas and the Nude’ will be a revelation for our visitors. It will offer a number of surprises †for instance, we’ll reunite several of Degas’ black and white monotypes with the corresponding pastel ‘twins’ for the first time since they left the artist’s studio,” said Malcolm Rogers, the Ann and Graham Gund director of the MFA. “Visitors will see the progression of his nudes and the very heart of Degas’ fascination with the body and its range of emotion and movement. He pursued that fascination in portraits, and above all in images of dancers, but in the nude we see the body in its purest form&⁴hrough Degas’ eye and imagination.”
The exhibit draws from some of the finest collections in the world. In addition to the MFA and Musée d’Orsay †the single largest lender, with more than 60 works †lenders include the National Gallery and Courtauld Gallery, London; the Musée Andre Malraux, Le Havre; museums and private collections in Japan, Germany and Switzerland; as well as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, among many other museums and private collections in North America.
The exhibition will feature such masterpieces as “Young Spartans Exercising,” 1860‶2, National Gallery, London, and “Scene of War in the Middle Ages,” 1863‶5, Musée d’Orsay, Paris, two of Degas’ greatest history paintings; and “The Tub,” about 1886, Musée d’Orsay, a pastel completed at the height of his career and presented at the last Impressionist exhibition in 1886.
The exhibit also offers context to this exploration of the artist’s nudes by juxtaposing his works with those created by major artists who influenced †or were influenced by †Degas, including Ingres’s “Angelica Saved by Ruggiero,” 1819″9, National Gallery, London; Caillebotte’s “Man at his Bath” (1884, recently acquired by the MFA, Boston); and Picasso’s “Nude on a Red Background,” 1906, Musée de l’Orangerie, Paris.
The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston is at 465 Huntington Avenue. For information, www.mfa.org or 617-267-9300.
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