The great French artist Edgar Degas (1834–1917) said “I would like to be illustrious and unknown.” To a large degree, his wish has been granted. By the time of Degas’s death, his art had become famous; his reputation since then has only grown.
Yet the individual who was so accomplished in many artistic endeavors—from drawing, painting, and printmaking to sculpture and photography—has remained elusive. Facing posthumous art historical debate about whether Degas’s frank depiction of women make him a misogynist, and labeled a cynic because of his biting wit, Degas was arguably the keenest artistic observer of human nature since Rembrandt. And, although often aloof to strangers, Degas shared warmth and loyalty with his family as well as with a wide circle of friends, which included some of the greatest writers and artists of the epoch.
The works by Degas in this exhibition consist of drawings, prints, photographs, monotypes, and one sculpture, all from a private collection. They touch upon three notable themes of his oeuvre: the human body, horse racing, and the ballet. An additional selection of more than forty rare works on paper by Degas’s contemporaries, including Mary Cassatt, Paul Cézanne, and Gustave Moreau, enriches the exhibition.
This exhibition is co-curated by Robert Flynn Johnson, Curator Emeritus of the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, and Louise Siddons, Ph.D., Assistant Professor and Curator of Collections at Oklahoma State University, Stillwater.