EDGAR DEGAS (1834-1917)
EDGAR DEGAS (1834-1917)
EDGAR DEGAS (1834-1917)
EDGAR DEGAS (1834-1917)
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EDGAR DEGAS (1834-1917)

Le sanglier

EDGAR DEGAS (1834-1917)
Le sanglier
oil on paper laid down on canvas
23 1/8 x 29 1/2 in. (58.7 x 75 cm.)
Painted circa 1864-1870
René de Gas, Paris, by whom probably acquired from the artist; his Estate sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 10 November 1927, lot 95.
Ambroise Vollard, Paris, by whom acquired at the above sale.
Martin Fabiani, Paris, by whom acquired from the above on 18 June 1937.
The Adams Gallery, London, by 1937.
Galerie Mouradian-Vallotton, Paris, by 1938.
The Adams Gallery, London, until at least 1952.
The Mayor Gallery, London.
Acquired from the above by the family of the present owner in 1968.
The Illustrated London News, no. 5144, vol. 191, 20 November 1937, p. 888 (illustrated).
P.A. Lemoisne, Degas et son œuvre, vol. II, Paris, 1946, no. 123, p. 60 (illustrated p. 61; with incorrect medium).
E. Newton 'Edgar Degas' in Apollo, vol. 57, iss. 340, London, 1 June 1953, fig. V, p. 205 (illustrated p. 204).
J.S Boggs, 'Degas Notebooks at the Bibliothèque Nationale II: Group B (1858-1861)', in The Burlington Magazine, June 1958, vol. 100, no. 663, p. 199.
T. Reff, 'Degas's Copies of Older Art', in Burlington Magazine, vol. 105, no. 723, June 1963, p. 242.
F. Russoli & F. Minervino, L'opera completa di Degas, Milan, 1970, no. 54, p. 89 (illustrated p. 88; with incorrect medium).
H. Loyrette, Degas, Paris, 1991, p. 132.
London, The Adams Gallery, Degas, December 1937, no. 9 (illustrated).
Paris, Galerie Mouradian-Vallotton, Degas, March 1938, no. 12.
London, The Lefevre Gallery, Degas, May - June 1950, no. 4, p. 3 (incorrectly catalogued as 'signed').
Bern, Kunstmuseum, Degas, November 1951 - January 1952, no. 9.
London, Tate Gallery, Degas, September - October 1952, no. 7, p. 7, (illustrated pl. III; with incorrect medium); this exhibition later travelled to Edinburgh, Royal Scottish Academy, 1952.
Further details
We are grateful to Professor Theodore Reff for his assistance in researching the present work.

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Lot Essay

Le Sanglier, a dynamic early picture painted by Degas in the late-1860s, depicts a lone wild boar, freely roaming in an abundant, mountainous landscape. Conveying the artist’s growing interest in the dramatics of movement, Degas brings to the fore his powerful and untamed creature, using loose brushwork to represent its flight. In the characteristic style that would define his mature oeuvre, Degas employs the underground of his picture as colour, allowing its natural rich brown tone to radiate through, punctuated with highlights of white paint dexterously articulating light, the background subtly inferred rather than fully detailed. The artist’s attention remains focused on the rendition of the boar’s dynamic stance, portrayed in mid-action, as if turning towards the viewer in a moment of suspense. Depicted with vigorous and free brushstrokes accentuating its raw strength, this rendition is a testament to Degas innovative technical prowess and to his uniquely fascinating interpretation of artistic traditions.

Scholars have identified the likely source of inspiration for the present work in The Wild Boar Hunt by early 17th century Flemish painter, Frans Snyders, currently on display in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. As the picture entered the Florentine museum in 1821, it is likely that the artist had a chance to admire it during one of his first Italian trips, in 1858-59. While Degas presumably copied it in situ in the Uffizi in the late 50s (a surviving sketch can be found in the Fitzwilliam museum, Cambridge), the original work by Snyders must have made a lasting impression on the artist, as the present oil can be dated on stylistic bases to at least a decade after the initial drawing. His Italian journey was undoubtedly one of the most influential experiences of his youth: the various capitals of the peninsula visited by Degas provided him with a number of sources of inspiration, from Giotto all the way to masters of the 17th Century. Despite being rooted in the 19th Century academic tradition, Degas’ understanding of the Old Masters was never a purely conventional one; when looking at examples of the 17th, 16th and even 15th century, the artist always sought to extract the elements that most intrigued him to re-interpret them in novel ways that best suited his artistic vision.

This is precisely the case of Le Sanglier, in which the artist selected the single figure of the boar from the larger 17th Century composition, removing the dogs and hunters of the original picture. As Theodore Reff put it while discussing Degas’ reinterpretations of historic artworks, ‘what is fascinating (…) is precisely their incompleteness: we are led to ask why one figure or face in a large work was selected rather than another’ (T. Reff, ‘Degas’s Copies of Older Art’, in The Burlington Magazine, Vol. 105, no. 723, June 1963, p. 247). Here, the resulting scene of this selective process is one the blends the classical with the contemporary: while it could simply be interpreted as one of the artist’s beloved hunting scenes, the 17th century reference, visible only to the trained eye, elevates the picture into an historic lineage, while its use of light, colour and the modelling of form convey to the viewer the novelty of Degas’ artistic practice. His masterful use of oil is shown here in all its glory, with a remarkable command of brushwork, employing his exquisitely expressive and innovative technique.

The present work is a testament to Degas' ability to engage with the artistic heritage of the past while establishing his own distinct artistic path. Le Sanglier fully conveys the artist’s fascination with the tension between tradition and modernity, incorporating this unique contrast in his own works: ‘in this complexity of interests, at once personal and conventional, deeply rooted in a conservative tradition and radically opposed to it, we discover in miniature the fundamental character of Degas’s activity as a copyist’ (ibid., p. 247).

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