The painter's collection
Met displays works by 19th century masters from Degas' private collection
October 1, 1997
Web posted at: 2:44 p.m. EDT (1844 GMT)
NEW YORK (CNN) -- Master artist Edgar Degas was said to be possessed by the
devil of collecting. After his death in 1917, his collection numbered an
astounding 8,000 works of art.
Degas had considered opening a museum to house his collection, but it never materialized and the collection was auctioned off over a two year period following his death.
A portion of Degas' magnificent collection, some 250 pieces, has been re-assembled for the first time and is on display at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art through January 11, 1998.
"He was very disciplined as a collector," said curator Gary Tinterow. "He limited himself to a small number of artists whose work he was interested in. He had many great masterpieces of (Jean-Auguste-Dominique) Ingres and (Eugène) Delacroix for example. His portraits that he owned by Ingres are among the greatest portraits Ingres ever made.
Respect the art, but not the artist
Degas' private collection includes paintings, drawings and prints by such 19th
century masters as Manet, Cézanne, Gauguin, Van Gogh and Degas
himself. The painter-collector particularly revered Édouard Manet's art, such as his "Gypsy with Cigarette."
And, while he appreciated the art of younger, largely unknown painters of the
time, such as Paul Gauguin, Paul Cézanne and Vincent Van Gogh-- he didn't like
"Cézanne seemed gruff and provincial, from another planet as far as Degas
was concerned," Tinterow explained, "but he admired his paintings tremendously. The same things with Paul Gauguin. Degas was a kind of mentor for Gauguin."
The master's own works
Degas used a kind of bartering system, converting his sketches into ready cash
to buy the works of other artists. But along with the masterpieces of his peers, Degas kept a collection of his own masterpieces.
"Then we have some 40 works by Degas, works that he had kept throughout his
life, works he refused to sell," Tinterow said. "So we have a great jockey picture, a great dancer picture, a great bather drying herself after her bath."
Degas made hundreds of sculptures but only exhibited one during his
lifetime -- "Little Dancer." The Met exhibit includes the first bronze cast of that sculpture.
The exhibit has expanding Tinterow's understanding of the painter and his contemporaries.
"I thought I knew a lot about Degas," the curator said, "and now bringing together his collection makes me understand the profound links between his art and the art of the great masters of the 19th century."
Eighty years after his death, Degas' desire for a museum has been fulfilled, even if not on the grand scale he envisioned.
CNN Correspondent Norma Quarles contributed to this report
Note: Related sites will open in a new browser window.
© 1997 Cable News Network, Inc.
A Time Warner Company
All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this
service is provided to you.