“If you see ballerinas in the picture, then it’s Degas,” the reference books “for dummies” characterize the work of this French impressionist. Yes, in his works, dancers, musicians and people from the theatrical environment are really often found. However, if it were only in them, it is unlikely that Degas’s works would now be in more than 150 museums in the world and in the collections of countless collectors. We will not list all the museums here, but let’s say about the main ones.
In Russia, Degas’ works can be seen in the permanent exhibitions of the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg and the A.S. State Museum of Fine Arts. Pushkin in Moscow. There are few works (12 for both museums) and mainly pastels made on paper or cardboard. On them are typical Degas dancers: rehearsing, resting, correcting pointe shoes. And one work in each collection, made in the technique of oil painting. But what! In the Moscow Museum – “Dancer at the photographer”, transmitting the airy atmosphere of Paris in the morning, is considered one of the best works of the master. And the “Place de la Concorde” from the Hermitage collection – a multi-figure portrait of two Degas friends with their daughters in the famous Paris Square – is recognized as the landmark work of all 19th-century French painting.
Paris Museum d’Orsay located in the building of the former train station, a five-minute walk from the Louvre Museum, it has one of the most extensive collections of paintings and drawings by Degas: “Galloping horses in front of the stands”, “Opera Orchestra”, “Absinthe” (compare with the Picassian series of the same name written by several years later), “The Belleli Family”, etc. The latter was acquired by the museum at the sale of the property of the deceased artist in 1917 and became a top-lot auction – then 400 thousand francs were posted for it. It also houses a collection of sculptures by the master. To sculpt small wax sculptures (Degas did little to do metal and stone, giving preference to soft materials) he became the more, the more his vision deteriorated. The themes of sculptures largely repeat the themes of his paintings – dancers, bathers, jockeys, horses, many horses. In the sculptural works, Degas also managed to express the filigree movement, the beauty of the moment as in his paintings. ATThe Lyon Museum of Fine Arts in Degas works, to your delight, you can meet not only the melancholy-romantic ballerinas but also the expressive singer in Cafesantan Ambassador. That willful gesture keeps the attention of not only the audience in the cafe but also, it seems, the audience of the picture.
One of Degas’s friends, Count Lepik, depicted with his daughters in the painting “Place de la Concorde” from the Hermitage collection, can be seen in the Collection of the Emil Burle Foundation in Zurich. There are several more works here, including a “clothed” sculpture – a figure of a 14-year-old dancer cast in bronze and literally dressed in a cotton bundle tied with a bow. This “girl” is the only one among the Degas sculptures that were exhibited during his lifetime. The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum provides a rare opportunity to see Degas in
Madrid. He enters the museum “golden triangle” of the Spanish capital along with the Prado and the Queen Sofia Center for the Arts, but the only one possesses a collection of impressionists.
Let’s move across the English Channel. In the London National Gallery, you can see both the early works of Degas and works of the late period. For example, “Combing the hair” is a picture made in a coloristic manner that was not quite typical for the artist and once belonged to Henri Matisse. Very close to the National Gallery, in Strand is Somerset House, which houses an extensive collection of paintings by the Curto Institute. Degas works a little, but they are represented in a good “company” of other fellow impressionists.
Going overseas, you can make a whole tour of the American “places of residence” of the works of the Impressionists in general and Degas in particular – the best collections of works of this direction outside France are stored in the USA. This was largely due to the efforts of Gustave Caillebotte, a collector, and philanthropist who had long and unsuccessfully engaged in the “promotion” of impressionism in the European market but managed to reach out to American buyers. Already after the death of the patron, a significant part of his collection was acquired by the inventor and millionaire Albert Barnes. Since then, the Barnes Foundation Gallery in Philadelphia has much to be proud of. Degas is also represented here. Just a few blocks from the Barnes Gallery is another American address where you can see the artist’s work -Philadelphia Museum of Art. In Farmington, Connecticut, in a mansion built in a colonial style and surrounded by a beautiful park, the Hill Stand Museum is located. Both the museum and the park are included in the list of national historic attractions, which is the US government. Despite the fact that only 19 halls are open for visitors, there is a very decent collection of works by the Impressionists, including Degas. The American list continues to the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Texas, where the Russian Dancers are stored, including a vivid original work that captures three fun-dancing girls in national costumes. Denver Museum of Art, better known for its collection of Indian art, also stores several works of the French painter. Like the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, by the way, the second largest collection in North America after the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Chicago Institute of Art. And yet, the Degas legacy is most fully and widely represented at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art – more than a hundred works in an open exhibition: drawings, paintings, sculptures, photographs.