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Edgar Degas: The Reluctant Impressionist

Noon Lecture/Seminar

Thursday, February 25, 2021 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. ET
Code: 1M2116
This program is part of our
Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.
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"The Dance Class", 1874, by Edgar Degas (The Met)

Though a principal member of the group known as the impressionists, Edgar Degas claimed he was instead a realist. Indeed, his works reflect careful observation, study, and refinement, not the spontaneous moments of color and light captured by his fellow contemporaries.

Degas admired both Ingres and Delacroix and was a committed copyist of Old Masters in the Louvre.  He abandoned unsuccessful early attempts at academic history painting to turn to modern life in Paris as his subject—one that offered rich possibilities for his art. A Parisian flâneur like his contemporary Edouard Manet, Degas devoted himself to the themes of the theatre, the ballet, the racehorse, Parisian nightlife, and social intimacies.

Art historian Bonita Billman examines Degas in the context of the impressionist movement and his colleagues Monet, Pissarro, Cassatt, and others. She explores his work in a variety of media (oils, pastels, prints, monotypes, photography, and sculpture), analyzes his contributions to French impressionist art and posterity, and looks at his role as an art collector of merit.

World Art History Certificate elective: Earn 1/2 credit*

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*Enrolled participants in the World Art History Certificate Program receive 1/2 elective credit. Not yet enrolled? Learn about the program, its benefits, and how to register here.