Edgar Degas - Madame Rene De Gas 1873

Madame Rene De Gas 1873
Madame Rene De Gas
1873 72x92cm oil/canvas
National Gallery of Art, Washingon, DC, USA

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From National Gallery of Art, Washingon:
The impressionist style was incompatible with Degas' meticulous paint handling and premeditated method of composing, and he preferred "independent" or "realist" to "impressionist" as the name of the movement. Degas did help establish and direct the impressionist organization, however, and participated in seven of the eight exhibitions. He selected insistently modern themes -- ballet dancers, laundresses, prostitutes, cafés and café-concerts, and racetracks -- and depicted them in numerous variations. One other recurring genre was portraiture. Degas selected family and friends as models rather than paint commissioned portraits, and his portraits are often unconventional characterizations. This portrait of Estelle Musson Balfour de Gas, the artist's first cousin and sister-in-law, was painted during Degas' 1872-1873 visit to New Orleans.
The 1871 discovery of the deterioration of his own vision sensitized the artist to Estelle's near-blindness when he visited the next year. Posture, gesture, accessories, and activities were often used by Degas to characterize the models in his portraits. Such incidental details were deliberately omitted here, a similarly informative decision. The soft focus of the painting, subdued and nearly monochromatic color harmonies, and Estelle's unfocused gaze parallel her limited visual capacity and indicate the artist's respect for Estelle and compassionate understanding of her situation.