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Degas and America: The Early Collectors Hardcover – February 10, 2001


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In the 1880s and '90s, when Monet's paintings were all the rage in Boston and New York, American critics disapproved of Degas's strange use of color and depictions of lowly urban life--Huysmans memorably described a Degas pastel of women bathers as "the marriage and adultery of color." Yet individual American collectors fell in love with Degas's works and bought them enthusiastically. French resentment of this was summed up in Jacques-Emile Blanche's phrase, "a stampede of irresponsible American millionaires." Degas shared the emotion, though he was generous to his wealthy patrons such as Mary Cassat and Louisine Havermeyer, and was the only impressionist ever to visit America (New Orleans, 1872-73). The Met, Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Art Institute of Chicago, and other institutions eventually followed the private collectors with wide-ranging purchases, so that today most of the world's outstanding collections of works by Degas are in America. The High Museum in Atlanta and the Minneapolis Institute of Art have organized a fascinating exhibition tracing the process of Degas's reception. The exhibition's catalog, Degas and America: The Early Collectors, illustrates 86 drawings, paintings, and sculptures by Degas acquired or exhibited in America around the turn of the century. Some of his most lyrical studies of ballet dancers and finest portraits are included. The provenance of each work, the collectors who owned and appreciated it, is discussed, giving an intimate dimension to the individual objects. Degas and America is an unusual study of the art of collecting, as well as the arts of drawing and painting. --John Stevenson

About the Author

David Brenneman is the Frances B. Bunzl Family Curator of European Art at the High Museum. Ann Dumas is a freelance art historian from London. She served as guest curator of the High Museum of Art's exhibition Impressionism: Paintings Collected by European Museums. Recently, Dumas was guest curator of The Private Collection of Edgar Degas at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and for Degas as Collector, at The National Gallery, London. Richard Kendall is a freelance art historian and the author of numerous books on Degas, including Degas: Beyond Impressionism. Rebecca Rabinow, a curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, collaborated with Ann Dumas on The Private Collection of Edgar Degas and recently contributed to the publication for the Met's Portraits by Ingres: Image of an Epoch.
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Degas and America: The Early Collectors
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