Edgar Degas

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Edgar Degas
Standing Man in a Bowler Hat; Slight Sketch of a Woman at Left
ca. 1870
Essence (thinned oil paint) on brown paper.
12 27/32 x 7 15/16 inches (326 x 202 mm); decorative frame: 25 3/4 x 19 3/4 x 2 1/2 inches
Bequest of John S. Thacher.

A founding member of the impressionist group, Degas was distinguished by his sense of realism and often unsetting subject matter derived from contemporary life. His financial independence allowed him a certain degree of freedom. He exhibited routinely with the impressionists until 1886, when his reputation was established and he could be selective about exhibiting and selling his work.
Degas's use of essence, or oil paint thinned with turpentine, on oiled brown paper or cardboard is associated with his early career, during the late 1860s and early 1870s, before he turned almost exclusively to pastel. In this study of a well-dressed man, Degas delineated the figure with bold strokes of black paint and then used a thinned gray oil paint to correct it. The contour of the man's left shoulder and arm was reduced and brought closer to the body, while the right shoulder was brought lower; both changes suggest a slightly less frontal view. A hand of paint strokes to the upper left of the figure suggest the hastily indicated form of a woman, although the function of the strokes to the left of the artist's legs remain ambiguous.
Jean Sutherland Boggs noted that the present study is comparable to the artist's drawing of his brother Achille similarly dressed and carrying an umbrella or cane, made in Paris before Degas's departure for America in 1873 (Minneapolis Institute of Arts; 61.36.8). The same general pose is used in the present study, although the figure wears a bowler hat, is more heavyset, and has a luxurious beard. Theodore Reff grouped the present drawing with the Minneapolis sheet and another of the artist's studies in oils from the same year, also depicting Achille standing (see Lemoisne 1984, no. 308, repr.). All three studies are characterized by the male figure's elegant, nonchalant pose and reflective downward gaze. Reff observed that Degas would have made such large, finished studies in oil in preparation for a painting, although no painting including any of these three figures has been identified.
Because of an inscription on the backing board of the frame, this sheet also has been considered in relation to the painting L'Intérieur, also called Le Viol, or The Rape, 1868-70 (Philadelphia Museum of Art). There are five studies related to the male figure in the painting, all of which reveal a slimmer man, his beard less full, dressed differently and without a hat. His stance is consistent with the established in the original outline of the composition. While the present study does bear a general resemblance to the pensive figure of the painting, it does not appear to be part of the sequence of preparatory studies (see Reff 1972). More likely, the drawing is contemporary or slightly later than Degas's studies for L'Intérieur.


Stamped in red ink at lower left corner, "Degas"; inscribed on back of old frame, in pen and black ink, "premiere idée pour le Viol (l'homme / adosse à la porte / vers 1874 / par Degas (Edgar) / peinture à l'essence sur papier huilé / no. 49 de la 2e vente de l'atelier Degas"; and on a label attached to the backing, "M. Guerin / 22 Bd. St. Michel / 14"; numbered on verso, in pencil (?), beneath lining, "237(?)".

The artist's atelier; his second estate sale, Paris, Galerie Georges Petit, 11-13 December 1918, lot 49: Marcel Bing (1875-1920), Paris; Marcel Guérin (1873-1948), Paris; sale, Paris, Palais Galliera, 12 June 1972, lot 16, repr.; John S. Thacher (1904-1985), Washington, DC.
Associated names: 

Bing, Marcel, former owner.
Guérin, Marcel, 1873-1948, former owner.
Thacher, John S., former owner.


Lemoisne, Paul-André: Degas et son oeuvre. Paris, 1946. (Lemoisine, Paul-André: Degas et son œuvre. New York, 1984, v. II, no. 344, p. 182-3, repr. Garland reprint of 1947-48 original).
Rivière, Henri. Les dessins de Degas reproduits en fac-similie/ réunis et publiés par le soins de Henri Rivière. New York, 1922-1923, no.77, repr.
Pecirka, Jaromir: The Drawings of Edgar Degas. London, 1963, no 25, repr.
Russoli, Franco and Fiorella Minervino: L'opera completa di Degas. Milan, 1970, no. 382, repr.
Ryskamp, Charles, ed. Twenty-First Report to the Fellows of the Pierpont Morgan Library, 1984-1986. New York : Pierpont Morgan Library, 1989, p. 313, 332, fig. 6.
Denison, Cara D. French Master Drawings in the Pierpont Morgan Library. New York : Pierpont Morgan Library, 1993, no. 118, repr.
In August Company : The Collections of the Pierpont Morgan Library. New York : Pierpont Morgan Library, 1993, no. 30, p. 303-304, repr. in color.
From Leonardo to Pollock: Master drawings from the Morgan Library. New York: Morgan Library, 2006, cat. no. 89, p. 186-187.
Dervaux, Isabelle. Drawing connections: Baselitz, Kelly, Penone, Rockburne, and the old masters. New York: Morgan Library & Museum, 2007, p. 23, 27, repr.

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