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    Sale 12070

    Impressionist & Modern Art Works on Paper

    13 May 2016, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 1058

    Edgar Degas (1834-1917)

    Femme nue assise

    Price Realised  


    Edgar Degas (1834-1917)
    Femme nue assise
    stamped with signature 'Degas' (Lugt 658; lower right)
    pastel and estompe over charcoal on paper
    16 7/8 x 16 ¾ in. (42.8 x 42.6 cm.)
    Drawn circa 1879

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    In the 1880s and 1890s, Degas' art underwent a transformation—one that was subtle, but also completely revelatory. His nudes became a vehicle for experimentation, in style and method, as well as impact. His earlier, methodical etchings gave way to expressive lithography. Drawing, the cornerstone of his practice, shifted from the careful academic pencil studies to strokes of charcoal or black chalk for forceful images of nude bathers. Anatomical accuracy became less important to the artist than expressing emotions and feelings that were palpable in the work: "Drawing is not what one sees but what one can make others see" (Degas, quoted in R. Kendall, ed., Degas by Himself, Drawings, Prints, Paintings, Writings, London, 1987, p. 319).
    Degas' late nudes stand opposite to the ballet dancers he celebrated in previous years, yet they equally became protagonist themes in the artist's oeuvre. If his dancers, by essence contrived and posed, were destined to a public audience and setting; the bathers, presented by Degas in the most intimate environments, were free from the public gaze, unaware of the viewer's presence, absorbed in daily tasks. The change of theme allowed Degas to free himself stylistically. The sharp underlying structures required by his earlier compositions were no longer necessary. Sensuous curves now replaced horizontal and vertical lines, not only in the treatment of the female body, but in its environment as well. Soft drapery, bathtubs, and armchairs create an intimately confined space, imposing on the viewer an unprecedented sense of immediacy. In the present work, Degas has gone a step further and removed any indication of settings or surroundings, and instead allows the woman to encompass the full pictorial space. The rhythmic application of pastel enlivens the figure, as if she has been sketched at speed or captured by a camera that was unable to focus in the available light. Photography itself was something the artist was hugely interested in. Indeed, many photographs exist that relate directly to the poses that he depicted in pastels and oils, demonstrating that Degas was willing to keep one eye turned toward the modern, while the other was turned to the past.


    Estate of the artist; Third sale, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, 7-9 April 1919, lot 57.
    Marisa Del Re Gallery, New York.
    Acquired from the above by the late owners, by June 1984.

    Pre-Lot Text

    The Francey and Dr. Martin L. Gecht Collection


    P.-A. Lemoisne, Degas et son oeuvre, vol. II, Paris, 1946, no. 551, p. 310 (illustrated, p. 311).
    R. Thomson, Degas, The Nudes, London, 1988, p. 236, no. 139 (illustrated in color).


    The Art Institute of Chicago, Graphic Modernism, Selections from the Francey and Dr. Martin L. Gecht Collection, November 2003-January 2004, pp. 8 and 171, no. 6 (illustrated in color).