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Degas and Cassatt Exhibit - Impressionist Friendship on Display at the National Gallery of Art

By Jon Treleaven

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From the buzz of the press the exhibit is a must see. Two of the most well-known impressionist artist on display at the same time in the same place. And for the first time, works of art that have never been seen together are on display.

The Degas & Cassatt exhibit is on display at the National Gallery of Art from May 11 to October 5, 2014. The National Gallery explores the relationship of the two artist using historical documents, and modern science. The exhibit is also accompanied by fine wine and fine dining inspired by Chef Michel Richard.

Edgar Degas, Portrait after a Costume Ball (Portrait of Mme Dietz-Monnin), 1879

 Impressionism movement found Edgar Degas in the forefront. His influence helped mold other artist including Mary Cassatt. What is unique about this exhibit is the relationship between Degas and Cassatt, her influence on Degas, and introducing him to American audience.

Degas Cassatt Exhibit entrance

Degas collected over 100 pieces of Cassatts’ work. Had repeated praise for the Cassatt saying, “no woman should ever be able to paint like this.” A light hearted dig, due to women not yet receiving the same accolades as men. The exhibit also displays a painting of Cassatt by Degas. Which Cassatt loved in her 30s, but didn’t like as much later in life, as many of us do as we age and our since of style matures.

Edgar Degas, Mary Cassatt, c. 1879–1884

 After Cassatt first encounter with Degas’s art she stated, “changed my life.” Not only did Cassatt collect Degas’s art, but the two worked on projects together. The most famous is the Cassatt’s Little Girl in a Blue Armchair (1878). The National Gallery has on display a letter from Cassatt to her dealer mentioning Degas’s assistance in the painting. Using x-radiographs and infrared images have produced evidence under the surface of Degas’s contribution.

Mary Cassatt, Little Girl in a Blue Armchair, 1878

Cassatt's Letter to Art Dealer

 The exhibit boasts 119 works by Cassatt, the largest in existence. There are 158 pieces by Degas, making it the third largest collection. The exhibit is divided into four spaces. The exhibit was made possible by the sponsorship of Booz Allen Hamilton who is celebrating their 100 year anniversary.

Edgar Degas, Fan Mount: Ballet Girls, 1879

Mary Cassatt, Young Woman in Black (Portrait of Madame J), 1883

For the first time Degas’s Fan Mount: Ballet Girls (1879) next to Cassatt’s Young Woman in Black (Portrait of Madame J) (1883). The collection displays groundbreaking techniques of metallic paint, and using glue mixed in with the paint such as Cassatt’s Woman Standing Holding a Fan (1878/1879). The exhibit also displays the transition in each artist life.

Although there are 277 pieces in the exhibit, the focal point is Cassatt’s Little Girl in a Blue Armchair (1878). Impressionisms focus on small thin noticeable brush strokes, realistic lighting, and open composition.  All elements on display in this painting fall behind the familiarity that the painting brings to audience.  The painting is about 136 years old but I can see my daughter at home slouching down on the couch with her Sunday dress on silently plotting on ways to have fun.

Such a collection will never be assembled again. The exhibit is 8 year in the making and dream come true for Kimberly Jones the associate curator for the Department of French Paintings. Who will be speaking at the opening on May 11, 2014.

 

Kimberly Jones

For more information please visit The National Gallery of Art Website

 

Dates May 11 – October 5, 2014

National Gallery of Art

6th Street and Constitution Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20565

Published on May 08, 2014

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