Manet/Degas: An Exceptional Show at the Musée d’Orsay

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Manet/Degas: An Exceptional Show at the Musée d’Orsay
Édouard Manet and Edgar Degas met for the first time in January 1862 while copying the same work of art at the Louvre. In 2023 they meet again, their art compared and contrasted in the exhibition Manet/Degas, at the Musée d’Orsay, from March 28 until July 23, 2023. And what a reunion it is. Flanking the entrance are their self-portraits. Degas’ proper countenance balanced with Manet’s wilder impression of himself. I can imagine them 150 years ago conversing at La Nouvelles Athènes about the merits of the exhibition. Edgar Degas, self portrait, 1855. Musée d’Orsay Manet/Degas includes more than 100 paintings, sketches, photos and letters. The exhibition stresses the many similarities between the two artists, men of a comparable age and background, who painted similar subject matter, but it’s their differences that make the exhibition at the d’Orsay so much richer. A little history… Édouard Manet (1832-1883) and Edgar Degas (1834-1917) were kindred souls, exceptional artists inhabiting the same Parisian art scene. Both were Paris-born, educated sons of bourgeois parents, whose families wanted more for them than the life of a starving artist. However, their temperaments differed. Manet was a handsome, nattily dressed bon vivant. Both sexes found him charming. Despite his wit, Degas was a bundle of nerves. A petulant introvert, it’s likely Degas remained celibate throughout his life. At the time of their meeting, both Manet and Degas were in the process of renouncing their training in academic art and had turned their backs to the religious or allegorical subjects that were de riguer in mid-19th century painting.  Manet and Degas adhered to the credo of the influential poet and essayist Charles Baudelaire, whose rallying cry was for artists to “be of their time.” Manet emerged in the 1860s with paintings that blended the historical and the contemporary, as seen in his 1863 cause celebre Olympia, which had its basis in a Renaissance work. But it was the brazen look on Manet’s subjects that set them apart. Degas left behind the academic teachings of the neoclassicist Ingres, and was a quick convert to the painting of modern life. By 1866, he was entrenched as one of the young avant-gardists. Degas’ Steeplechase: The Fallen Jockey included in today’s exhibition, signaled his commitment to contemporary subject matter. Together the duo influenced the Impressionists. Edouard Manet, Olympia, 1863. Musée d’Orsay
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Lead photo credit : Édouard Manet and Mme. Manet, 1868–1869, Kitakyushu Municipal Museum of Art, Japan Wikimedia commons

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A freelance writer and amateur historian, Hazel knew she wanted to focus on the lives of French artists and femme fatales after an epiphany at the Musée d'Orsay. A life-long learner, she is a recent graduate of Art History from the University of Toronto. Now she is searching for a real-life art history mystery to solve.

Comments

  •  Marilyn Brouwer
    2023-04-19 06:07:45
    Marilyn Brouwer
    Brilliant article Hazel and a great time to be in Paris for this exhibition. Hugely jealous!

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