Edgar Degas: A Strange New Beauty

Edgar Degas: Ludovic Halévy Finds Mme. Cardinal in the Dressing Room, pastel and pencil over monotype on paper, circa 1876–1877

Anka Muhlstein writes,“The MoMA exhibition ‘Edgar Degas: A Strange New Beauty,’ organized by Jodi Hauptman, the senior curator of drawings and prints, with Karl Buchberg, senior conservator, is the first complete exhibition of his monotypes since the one at Harvard’s Fogg Museum in 1968, and it is indispensable for an understanding of his quest for new techniques, new subjects, and new forms.

The experimental method, which was part of the zeitgeist of the last third of the nineteenth century, suited him: there was something of the inventor in this bricoleur always ready to try something new, often for the pleasure of starting over from scratch when he finally hit a wall, toiling away in his atelier where, observed Valéry, ‘light and dust mingled happily [amid] a basin, a dull zinc bathtub, stale bathrobes…bottles, flasks, pencils, bits of pastel chalk…broken pots, odds and ends.’ Most important, it housed a press, now in the Musée de Montmartre, an indispensable tool for the creation of his monotypes, a technique that allowed him to renew himself by abandoning the classicism he had grown up with.”

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