Edgar Degas on the Life of Matter and the Matter of Art

Edgar Degas on the Life of Matter and the Matter of Art

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

5:30 PM–7:00 PM
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In this Research and Academic Program lecture, Michelle Foa (Tulane University / Florence Gould Foundation Fellow) frames Edgar Degas as an artist who was committed, above all, to investigating the life of matter and the matter of art, and whose career-long fixation on materials informed his work, practices, and interests in remarkable and little-understood ways. Described by a close friend as “an artisan passionate about all the means of his art” and his work characterized by one critic as “a strange collection of trials and errors,” Degas’ corpus was thoroughly shaped by his penchant for experimentation with diverse media and processes. More than a century after his death, there is still a great deal left to discover about the complexity and significance of Degas’ unusual modes of production; his intertwining of motif, making, and media throughout his work; and his consistent testing of the possibilities and limits of representation.

Michelle Foa is associate professor of art history at Tulane University, where she focuses primarily on nineteenth-century European art and visual and material culture. Her current research interests include the history and ecology of artists’ materials; the relationships between art, science, and technology; the history of conservation; and the intersections of art history and environmental studies. At the Clark she will work on two book projects: The Matter of Edgar Degas and The Making and Unmaking of Nineteenth-Century Paper. The former analyzes the conceptual complexity of the artist’s material and technical experimentation and his various strategies for evoking the materiality and heft of the world around him in pictorial form. The latter draws out the network of global developments that dramatically reshaped the production and consumption of paper over the course of the nineteenth century and explores the impact of these developments on artistic and cultural production of the period.

Free. Accessible seats available; for information, call 413 458 0524. A 5 pm reception in the Manton Research Center reading room precedes the event.

Image: Edgar Degas, Dance School (detail), 1875–76, Shelburne Museum, gift of Electra Webb Bostwick, 1976