Saturday, April 5, 2014

E is for the Portrait of Edmund Duranty

Portrait of Edmund Duranty by Degas, 1879.

Edmund Duranty, a wealthy literary and art critic, was a friend of Degas. Degas drew three preliminary sketches of this portrait, the sketches of which can be seen on the Metropolitan Museum of Art's web site.
 Interestingly, this was done in watercolor and pastels on linen.

Duranty was one of the first to write favorably about the Impressionists, although he called the art "The New Paintings."  He liked the new, fresh approach of these artists, away from the painters who painted traditional subjects, religious and classical.

And if you thought that these gentlemen lived quiet lives as they painted and wrote, their lives did have passion.  Duranty had a duel with swords in 1870 against the painter, Manet, whose work he criticized.  Manet apparently slapped him and the duel was on.  It took place in the woods, St. Germaine, near Paris; Manet's seconds was Emile Zola. The police report stated that the first encounter was so violent, that the swords buckled.  Duranty was wounded in his right chest, the seconds declared that the quarrel was settled and ended the duel, and surprisingly the men remained friends.  The encounter became famous with a song written about it and sung in the local cafes.  Duranty died one year after this portrait was completed.  Later complications from sword wounds?
The pose in this portrait is interesting, with the two fingers pressed against the left eye, and to underline Duranty's literary background, the display of books, books and more books behind him.

(Excerpt from:  Edouard Manet, A Rebel in a Frock Coat. Wikipedia. Dover Publications, Mineola, New York.)


  1. Hi Tasha .. I thought when I saw the painting .. Duranty looked to be in pain ... regardless of whether or not he was struggling for words ... What an interesting story in the lives of writers and artists .. thank goodness they remained friends afterwards - counting their blessings I guess ...

    Cheers Hilary

  2. Perhaps he was. Having a sword run through you, especially in those years, would have to have caused problems in later years.

  3. It seems a lot of duels ended with the antagonists being friends. Seems nuts doesn't it? Interesting story again, thanks Tasha.

  4. My husband is wondering if had some kind of pain in his eye. I had to remind him that it is a painting. It is the artist who decided to paint that way.

  5. This is a wonderful watercolor. Thanks for sharing it!