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  • Edgar Degas
    Jul 19, 1834 - Sep 27, 1917
  • The Song of the Dog - Edgar Degas was a French artist famous for his work in painting, sculpture, printmaking and drawing. He is regarded as one of the founders of Impressionism although he rejected the term, and preferred to be called a realist. A superb draughtsman, he is especially identified with the subject of the dance, and over half his works depict dancers.
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The Song of the Dog
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  • The Song of the Dog

  • Edgar Degas
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  • 1876-1877
    Pastel and gouache over monotype on joined paper
    Private collection.

    IN THOSE PICTURES which Degas made from the night cafes in the Champs Elysees, he seems to have been struck by the vigorous vulgarity of the performers. Unlike the charm with which he rendered his first ballet dancers, these works are sharply satirical. As Mrs. Havemeyer, who bought the picture from Degas, wrote, "There is nothing elegant about this woman's pose. Her hands suggest the movement of a dog (from a popular song of the period) and the gesture is done as only Degas could do it with a flash of drawing. The lines of the mouth, as she bawls forth the vulgar song, her exultant exaggeration, showing she is conscious of her power over her audience, all this and much more . . . show clearly what the cafe-chantant is, what part it plays in Parisian life, the kind of creature that furnishes the amusement, and, although you cannot see them distinctly, you know the class of pleasure seekers who can be entertained by such a performance."

    Here Degas has superbly rendered the effect of night atmosphere with its dark green background against which plays the tawny hair of the singer. He placed the profile strongly against a yellow pillar which cuts the composition, and contrasted the face, lighted drastically by footlights, with a repeated pattern of electric globes - devices which show that by this time he was absorbing the patterns of Japanese art. It is interesting to note that he has twice enlarged the picture by adding strips of paper to the right and working over them. Painted chiefly in gouache, the colors have been strengthened and the forms accented by strokes of pastel on top of the gouache.

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Other paintings by Edgar Degas:

The Rehearsal on Stage
The Rehearsal on Stage
The Return of the Herd
The Return of the Herd
The Song Rehearsal
The Song Rehearsal
The Start of the Hunt
The Start of the Hunt
Edgar DegasEdgar Degas As the son of a wealthy Parisian banking family, Edgar Hilaire Germain Degas originally planned to study law before opting to enter the Ecole des Beaux Arts in 1855. His studies there strongly emphasized traditional drawing skills. Degas excelled and his extraordinary draftsmanship became a hallmark of his work. In 1856, Degas traveled extensively throughout Italy where he studied renaissance and classical masterpieces.

As a founding member of the Impressionists, Degas helped to organize the ground-breaking exhibition of 1874, exhibiting 10 of his own pieces in this inaugural show. While historically labeled an Impressionist, Degas preferred the term "Naturalist". He seldom painted en plein- air. Instead preferring to work from sketches and models. The artist once said: "My art has nothing spontaneous about it, it is all reflection." His studies frequently convey an element of psychological tension, offering the viewer intimate vignettes of life in late 19th century Paris. Fascinated with the movement of forms through space, Degas often sketched dancers from the wings of theaters, working in pastel and charcoal to capture his subjects with an unrivaled immediacy. Women dancing or merely engaged in the activities of daily life consistently his favored subject. Scholarship is currently divided as to whether Degas was a misogynist or an early feminist but the raging controversy has yet to dampen enthusiasm for the artist's work.

Degas liked photography so he painted similar to how a camera would capture a picture.