Edgar Degas

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Edgar Degas
Portrait of René De Gas, 1845-1926
ca. 1855
Graphite, with white opaque watercolor, on light pink paper.
9 3/16 x 7 13/16 inches (234 x 198 mm)
Bequest of John S. Thacher.

This delicate study of the young René Degas, the artist's brother, has suffered from exposure to light, which has darkened the pale pink paper considerably, making the graphite strokes hard to read and leaving the white highlights to define the sitter's face. The artist began his career making copies, producing self-portraits, and portraying family members as he developed his skills as a draftsman. Before he left for Italy in 1856, while he was a student at the Ecole des beaux-arts, he made a series of drawings and painted portraits depicting his brothers and sisters. The fine graphite line of this study reveals the impact of Ingres' example on the young Degas.
René was the youngest sibling, only ten years old, in 1855. Later, René would move to New Orleans to make a career in the cotton industry, abandoning his wife and children in 1878. He returned to France to forge a new career as a journalist, along with his married companion. As a result of these life choices, the two brothers had little contact between 1878 and 1900.


Atelier stamp (Lugt 658) in red ink (faded) at lower left corner.
Watermark: illegible fragment.

The artist's atelier; Degas estate sale; John S. Thacher (1904-1982), Washington, D.C.
Associated names: 

Thacher, John S., former owner.


Ryskamp, Charles, ed. Twenty-First Report to the Fellows of the Pierpont Morgan Library, 1984-1986. New York : Pierpont Morgan Library, 1989, p. 333.

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