Degas's Modernism Open Access

Morrison, Alexandra Kathleen (2011)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/bk128b388?locale=en
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Abstract

Copies of Old Masters, references to past art, repetition of figures as well as compositions, and an affinity for modern, figural subjects all characterize the œuvre of Edgar Degas (1834-1917). Despite his affiliation with the Impressionists, Degas's methods and art suggest instead participation in a new kind of modernism. First, I will address Degas's education and how a knowledge of Old Masters' methods and figuration shaped his early development. Then I will discuss Degas's choice to focus primarily on dancers and his continued commitment to traditional methods, which contrasted strongly with the Impressionists' plein air landscapes and relinquishment of painterly techniques. Paradoxically, Degas's employment of his predecessors' conventional methods, ranging from subjects to tired compositional formulae, allowed him to grasp fleeting moments of reality in the modern world. Ultimately, Degas developed a unique modernism, built upon repetition first through copying Old Masters, and then by continued self-citation of figures and compositions he had developed. This approach placed Degas not only within the artistic lineage of the predecessors he admired but also the modernity of his time.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Repetition as a means to originality..................................1
Chapter I. An education.....................................................................8
Chapter II. La Nouvelle Peinture, Degas, and the Repetition of Artifice.....43
Conclusion.......................................................................................71
Works cited and referenced................................................................75

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