Art & Identity in New Orleans

HNRS 109 Spring '18

Madame René de Gas

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Edgar Degas (French, 1834 - 1917), Madame René de Gas, 1872/1873, oil on canvas, Chester Dale Collection 1963.10.124

Edgar Degas (French, 1834 – 1917), Madame René de Gas, 1872/1873, oil on canvas, Chester Dale Collection 1963.10.124

This is one of my favorite Degas paintings — a portrait of his brother Achille’s wife René, who was nearly blind, that Degas painted while visiting New Orleans. The work hangs in the National Gallery of Art. “Posture, gesture, accessories, and activities were often used by Degas to characterize the models in his portraits,” the National Gallery’s entry on this painting states. “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.”

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