Many celebrated pictures by Edgar Degas (18341917)showing ballet dancers, popular performers, and bathers, for examplewere indebted to Japanese images of similar contemporary subjects. Degas and his generation were captivated by Japanese culture: he assembled his own collection of Ukiyo-e prints and several of his friends were leading authorities on artists such as Hokusai, Utamaro, and Hiroshige.
Degas and the Art of Japan explores the French Impressionist’s lifelong fascination with the work of his Japanese counterparts. Adding substantially to previous studies, the authors propose new links between some of Degas’s characteristic themes, such as laundresses and horse racing, and the woodblock designs of Ukiyo-e masters. Fresh light is also shed on another signature trait of the artisthis fascination with women in their public and private liveswhich is echoed in the prevalence of female subjects in Japanese woodblock imagery. Equally significant are revelations about Degas’s access to specific Japanese prints belonging to collectors and dealers in Paris.
Works by Degas in all media are consideredpaintings, pastels, drawings, lithographs, etchings, monotypes, and sculptureand juxtaposed with Japanese prints, illustrated books, and decorated fans. Comparable human predicaments and parallels in visual language are all part of this wide-ranging analysis, which deepens our understanding of one of the world’s greatest artists.