Edgar Degas (1834–1917): Courtyard of a House. (New Orleans, sketch)
Oil on canvas | 60 x 73.5 cm | 1873
The picture was painted during Degas’ stay with his family in New Orleans in 1872-73. He exhibited it at the Second Impressionist Exhibition in 1876 as “une esquisse” (a sketch). Precisely the sketch-like, unfinished impression is characteristic of his work from this period, and adds a great deal to the interest of the pictures.
Degas typically combines this painting method with a firmly shaped, sharply drawn contour, and the contrast between the sketch-like and the clear line strengthens the radical nature of the picture. The architecture is clearly indicated and captured by black perspective lines, while the children and the garden plants are painted very freely. This gives an overall analytical effect and leaves no impression that Degas is interested in these particular children as such. There is a degree of distance from the motif, and the dark gazes towards the observer from the dog on the garden path and from the child in the foreground sharpen our consciousness of our role as observers.
Degas stood out as one of the most important artists of early Modernism. He had a special position in the group of Impressionists because of his striking, radical painting method. In particular his unique way of framing the motifs and the almost voyeuristic observations of life around him are remarkable. Central to his work too is his pioneering exploration of the potential of pastel technique, monotype, sculpture and photography.
Motifs: Portraits, history paintings, “modern life”, ballerinas, washerwomen, women at their toilette and racehorses.
Read more about Degas at the Musée d’Orsay’s website.