Art & Identity in New Orleans

HNRS 109 Spring '18

The Painting of Edgar Degas


For my final presentation, I will be learning about the work of Edgar Degas in general, but especially how it related to New Orleans. When he was painting there, he found something that inspired him, and I plan to explore that in more detail. I will compare his work that he did in New Orleans with his future work and try to discover why he was so inspired by the city. I will also discuss the cultural implications of his trip to America and what was happening in history at the time, both in American and in his native France. Finally, I will discuss what Degas left behind when he took his visions with him, as he is still an important figure to the city of New Orleans.

Edgar Degas is a fascinating painter, because his impressionist style is both beautiful and haunting. Evidence would suggest that he got that from New Orleans, because he made several paintings of city scenes that are echoed by his images of dancers. But the muted colors and the loosely sketched out imagery suggest a different place than the vibrant, colorful place that it is today. Was there a time when it was not so colorful, not so full of life?┬áIt will be important to see Degas’ stay in New Orleans in the context of the history of the city, because that will provide clarification of the world that he was living in. This will include the work of some other artists living in the city during that time; maybe he was inspired by some of them as well.

The main questions I will attempt to answer are: Why did Degas come to New Orleans and what was happening in history at the time? What did he paint while he was there? How does his art compare to other New Orleanian artists at the time? How did this influence his later art? I plan to find out the answers to these questions with a detailed study of Degas and his work that still remains an inspiration and a gift to the world.

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