L'Homme from Famille Cardinal by Degas
L'Homme from Famille Cardinal by Edgar Degas
The popular perspective on Degas is that of an aesthetic genius whose acidic colors (inspired by the new invention of the electric light), blurry atmospheres, and dynamic subjects are to be admired as pleasant and universally pleasing. Who would not appreciate lovely images of ballet dancers chasing their dreams? What is often overlooked is that the voyeuristic perspectives of the images place audiences in the shoes of the old, wealthy gentleman who visited dance halls to mingle with young and disadvantaged female performers.
At first glance, this print appears straightforward. The tall man in his suit and top hat stands inside a hallway. The only light casts a dim, nearly useless, glow in the shadowy space and a black door with a small window stands at the right. The facelessness of the lone man appears to be a piece of existential commentary, but when one notes the soft white blur in the corner, the image takes on new life.
Those familiar with Degas' work will recognize it as the skirt of a petite teenaged ballerina. She dodges quickly from the room as the man awkwardly places his hand on the back of his neck. Whether the man is simply ashamed by the audience's gaze or the act he has committed is unclear, and this casual view of the dark world young impoverished women endured in their unsavory roles has been the subject of newer art historic analyses of the artist and his work.
Edgar Degas (1834-1917) took to monotype printing around 1874, after the amateur etcher Vicomte Ludovic Napoléon Lepic introduced him to the process. For Degas, this singular print process gave him greater freedom to improvise and be spontaneous than drawing on paper allowed. Throughout his lifetime Degas produced more than 400 different monotypes, a number far greater than his etchings or lithographs.
Plate size: 6.25" x 4.5"
Sheet size: 12.25" x 9"