Thursday, April 3, 2014

C is for "The Cotton Office in New Orleans"

"Art is not what you see, but what you make others see."  Edgar Degas

Edgar Degas lived in New Orleans  for five months where his family was in the  cotton brokerage business. Unfortunately, the business went bankrupt.  What is interesting is that Degas painted his brothers in this painting as if everything was fine  One brother Musson is examining cotton for its quality and another, Renee, is reading about the bankruptcy in The Picayane News.  Everyone seems quite calm.  Degas returned to Paris and exhibited "The Cotton Office" in the Second Impressionist Show in 1876, and two years later in 1878 he sold this painting to a museum in Paris, the Musee de Beaux, the only sale to a museum in his lifetime.  

The formality of the dress, hats, ties, white shirts, serious, stoic, a bit unflappable, but then if Degas were  painting this to sell, which he was, this is the way he would have painted it,  everything orderly and serious.

Looking at the painting, the composition, the colors, the contrast between black and white are perfect.  Notice the edge of painting on the right, instead of making the room continue, you don't see the rest of the hand or the desk.  Photography was an influence for Degas, as were Japanese prints which used unusual angles and unusual points of view.


The Cotton Office in New Orleans by Edgar Degas, 1873
Dover Publications, Inc. Mineola, N.Y.


18 comments:

  1. What an interesting picture. I never knew much about Degas so it's great to read what you write.

    JO ON FOOD, MY TRAVELS AND A SCENT OF CHOCOLATE

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am learning as I do this blog. Thanks, Jo.

      Delete
  2. Hi Tasha ... how interesting that Degas painted to sell the picture. It does look so realistic doesn't it .. even if 140 years ago ... and what a great piece of historical record ... it is so clear and factual.

    Fascinating clothes, furniture and way the room is set out .. loved seeing this and the fact that the family lived in New Orleans for a while .. cheers Hilary

    ReplyDelete
  3. Wouldn't it be fun to be a set designer for a movie or a TV show, or a clothing designer, history, research, so interesting.

    ReplyDelete
  4. The calmness of this painting doesn't betray the ragged and bedraggled business. Degas was brilliant, more than his Paris work shows. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. He was brilliant. When I saw this painting, I was struck by the composition and how artlessly the figures were arranged. Thank you, Susan.

      Delete
  5. I do like Degas, and his realism. Interesting that he would paint something that was failing, but at least he managed to make a sale of it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, DG. Degas gets more inventive as he gets older and his colors are amazing. Hope to show more of those paintings.

      Delete
  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I wonder if Degas deliberately chose not to paint all those pairs of hands because they are time consuming and complex? If under any sort of deadline to finish it for sale, he might have decided that "something's gotta give." What do you think?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't think so. When you paint, if you are good, you know when to stop, I little like writing. I think he left the hands alone because he wanted your eye to be somewhere else.

      Delete
  8. Degas is one of my favourites.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. He was an interesting personality, and had some racial attitudes that I chose not to write about, but we all are a mix of positive and negative thoughts and ideas.

      Delete
  9. Honestly, it looks like a photograph.

    ReplyDelete
  10. it looks like a photo image, especially the gent in the very forefront.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Munir and WW. His technique is amazing.

      Delete