COLUMBUS, OHIO.- The Columbus Museum of Art presents Edgar Degas: The Last Landscapes October 13, 2006 - January 21, 2007. Focusing on the magnificent landscapes Degas painted at the seaside resort of Saint-Valèry-sur-Somme on the northern French coast, this collection of more than twenty rare works by Degas demonstrates the bold inventiveness that became the hallmark of this complex Impressionist master. Of the approximately one dozen landscape paintings Degas created of Saint-Valéry-sur-Somme, the whereabouts of only six paintings are known. All six will visit Columbus this autumn.
Second in a series of exhibitions inspired by works in the permanent collection of the Columbus Museum of Art, Edgar Degas: The Last Landscapes is co-organized with the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen. Columbus will be the only U.S. venue for the exhibition organized by internationally recognized scholar Ann Dumas, guest curator for the Museum's highly successful exhibition, Renoir's Women.
"We are incredibly excited to be able to work with Ann again," said Nannette V. Maciejunes, executive director of the Columbus Museum of Art. "Her expertise and knowledge were integral to the success of Renoir's Women and in helping us forge the unique international partnership with the Glyptotek that has allowed us to present Degas Landscapes."
Philippe de Montebello, director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, recently toured the Columbus Museum of Art. When lightheartedly asked which work he would add to the Met's collection if he could, Mr. de Montebello selected the Museum's Houses at the Foot of a Cliff (Saint-Valéry-sur-Somme) by Degas, the centerpiece of this exhibition.
Known primarily as a painter of the human figure, Degas surprised visitors to his first one-man exhibition at the prestigious Galerie Durand-Ruel in September of 1892 with a series of monotype landscapes described by art critic Gustave Geffroy as "precious sapphires in velvet jewelry boxes." His innovative use of printmaking techniques, technical virtuosity and fascination with cutting-edge technology distinguished him among his Impressionist contemporaries.
"The fascinating complexity of Degas' works makes them surprisingly different from the landscapes of his Impressionist colleagues," said Dominique H. Vasseur, Columbus Museum of Art Associate Curator of European Art. "There's a haunting beauty in his work that draws the viewer in. As Degas said, 'Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.'"
Remarkably, Degas' late paintings of Saint-Valéry-sur-Somme were his first attempt at tackling pure landscape. Landscapes had appeared in his pictures of dancers, and jockeys and horses from the 1870's onwards, but always in a secondary role. Several of these works are included in the exhibition to introduce the viewer to Degas' increasingly inventive technique and atmospheric use of color.
The late paintings of Saint-Valéry-sur-Somme are followed by an impressive selection of the small but brilliant and technically innovative oil monotypes Degas produced. To illustrate Degas' acute awareness of his colleagues, the exhibition also includes several landscapes and townscapes by Monet, Pissarro, and Sisley, which show the greater environment in which Degas, worked.
Finally, the exhibition provides vintage documents - postcards, photographs, and a travel poster - from Saint-Valéry-sur-Somme, that provide the viewer with a fuller sense of this small resort town that so profoundly influenced the great master, Degas, in his later years. Saint-Valéry-sur-Somme was a popular painting spot for many artists, such as Louis Braquaval and Eugène Boudin, whose works are also included in the exhibition.
This glimpse into the rarest of Degas' works is juxtaposed with his seminal masterwork, The Little Dancer of Fourteen. When Degas unveiled the sculpture of a young ballet student at the sixth Impressionist exhibition in 1881, it amazed and shocked visitors and art critics. Degas created the dancer from tinted wax, real human hair, a silk ribbon, and a cloth ballet tutu rather than the usual polished white marble or richly patinated bronze of official sculpture. In a very real sense, Degas had revolutionized sculpture, a centuries-old art form. Degas, well versed in the art of the past, brought the art form into the immediacy of his day, an immediacy that remains fresh and astonishing today.
Support for Degas Landscapes is provided by Huntington Bank, M/I Homes Foundation, The Dispatch Media Group, and community partner Experience Columbus. The Columbus Foundation, the Greater Columbus Arts Council, and the Ohio Arts Council provide ongoing Museum support.
"Huntington is excited to be able to continue our long-standing tradition of supporting the Columbus Museum of Art," said Thomas E. Hoaglin, Huntington Chairman, President and CEO. "We share the Museum's deep commitment to the community, and helping to bring an exhibition of this caliber to Central Ohio is yet another way we are pleased to serve."