Detail View: The AMICA Library: Group of Dancers

AMICA Library Year: 
Object Type: 
Drawings and Watercolors
Creator Name: 
Degas, Edgar
Creator Dates/Places: 
French, 1834 - 1917
Creator Name-CRT: 
Edgar Degas
Group of Dancers
Full View
Creation Date: 
c. 1895-1897
Creation Start Date: 
Creation End Date: 
Materials and Techniques: 
Pastel, gouache, panel
Overall: 12 1/16 x 16 1/8 x 3 3/4 in. (30.64 x 40.96 x 9.52 cm.) Framed dimensions: 22 5/16 x 26 3/4in. (56.69 x 67.94cm.)
AMICA Contributor: 
Dallas Museum of Art
Owner Location: 
Dallas, Texas, USA
ID Number: 
Credit Line: 
Dallas Museum of Art, The Wendy and Emery Reves Collection
Although he is known chiefly for his work as a popular lithographer, Honor‚ Daumier was among the greatest painters of the 19th century. He painted throughout his life, and many of his works were admired by his friends and colleagues Corot, Millet, Daubigny, and the younger artists Pissarro and C‚zanne. Yet, in spite of the fact that his painted oeuvre includes more than 250 works, only one major exhibition of his paintings was held during his lifetime, a showing at Durand-Ruel's gallery, mounted just months before the painter's death in 1879.This superb small painting on panel was included in that landmark exhibition, placing it within the ranks of works that the artist himself valued enough to exhibit. It is fully signed and finished to a considerably higher degree than the majority of surviving oil paintings by Daumier. The short, gestural strokes of paint almost sculpt the head and body, giving them form in the dramatic theatrical light chosen by the artist. One is reminded of Daumier's interest in both the theater and sculpture, which he pursued unofficially, just as he painted for himself and posterity rather than for the active French art market.The figure of Pasquin was derived from the 16th-century Italian Comedia dell'Arte. This form of popular theater plays a large role in French secular painting beginning in the late 17th century and is associated most often with Watteau. Daumier, too, painted many characters from the Comedia dell'Arte. Many Italian and French actors in the tradition altered or expanded these characters to suit particular audiences and particular moments. A closely related painting of the same dimensions representing Paillesse or Pierrot, in a private collection in Oxford, England, may have been intended as a pair to the Reves panel.Like most of Daumier's subjects, Comedia Dell'Arte was of "low" social origins, even if many of its early audiences were aristocrats and well-to-do bourgeois. By the 19th century in France, the tradition was in decline and continued to be practiced only for a lower middle class or urban proletarian public. Thus, Daumier's Pasquin is very different from Watteau's sad Pierrot and his "galante" friends who frequented the parks, salons, and private theaters of the 18th-century French aristocracy. Whereas Watteau's characters cavort with - and satirize - their social "betters," Daumier's figures bring the world of the aristocracy back into contact with the "dangerous" urban classes from which the original Comedia dell'Arte emerged.Daumier's Pasquin is at one with his "character." His strongly modeled upper torso and majestic head project an intense, humanist nobility. Interestingly, Daumier denied Pasquin his most obviously expressive features, his hands, preferring to study the seat of his intelligence rather than embody his gestures. Daumier's painting, which has been dated to 1862-1863 (Maison 1968, vol. 1, pl. 133), can be contrasted with the brilliant series of photographs of Comedia dell'Arte figures made by his contemporary, the early photographer Nadar."Impressionist Paintings Drawings and Sculpture from the Wendy and Emery Reves Collection," pages 28-29
Related Image Identifier Link: