Degas

Edgar Degas (1834–1917) 
Studies of the Borghese Gladiator, c. 1853–56
Black and red chalks on cream laid paper 
9 1/2 x 12 5/16 in. (24.2 x 31.3 cm)
Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts, 1971.41


Underlying Degas’s prowess as a draftsman was a thorough academic training that included drawing after Old Master paintings and Greek and Roman sculpture in the Louvre. An example of this practice, this student work combines images of the celebrated antique marble gladiator, represented from different viewpoints, with the profile of the head of another sculpture.

Edgar Degas (1834–1917) 
Two Portrait Studies of a Man, c. 1856–57
Graphite with stumping and touches of white chalk on pink wove paper
17 5/16 x 11 3/8 in. (44 x 28.9 cm)
Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts, 1955.1393


This virtuoso drawing was made from life during Degas’s Italian sojourn. The artist studied the half-length figure up close, ingeniously combining two views into a harmonious composition. The facial features and smooth skin are rendered lifelike through fine gradations of light and shadow, achieved through blended strokes of graphite and the addition of white highlights. 

Edgar Degas (1834–1917)
Study for “Dead Fox in the Forest,” c. 1861–64
Black and red chalks on cream wove paper
8 1/16 x 10 15/16 in. (20.4 x 27.7 cm)
Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts, 1955.1396


In this delicate sheet from early in Degas’s career, the artist observes a dead fox’s limp body. Long and short directional strokes coalesce into a convincing representation of the coarse fur of the animal’s coat while a combination of looser marks with the white of the paper suggests the softer underbelly. The red stamp bearing Degas’s name at lower left was applied to this sheet — and to the many others that remained in the artist’s studio until his death — on the occasion of his estate sales of 1918 and 1919. 

Edgar Degas (1834–1917) 
Study for “Madame Julie Burtey,” c. 1867 
Black and dark-brown graphite on blued white wove paper
12 1/16 x 8 1/2 in. (30.6 x 21.6 cm)
Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts, 1955.1406


Along with some notebook sketches and a nearly full-length seated study, this work led to an oil painting (unfinished) now in the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. The inscription “Mme Jules Bertin,” one of the many names under which the subject has been known, was added by a later hand. 

Edgar Degas (1834–1917) 
At the Races, c. 1860–62
Graphite and black chalk with stumping on beige-pink paper, pieced together
13 11/16 x 18 7/8 in. (34.7 x 48 cm)
Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts, 1955.1401


In this early study, jockeys slowly ride their horses to the start of a race. Degas works out the complex overlapping of figures and the positioning of five sets of horses’ legs. Rethinking the placement of one, he enlarged his sheet with additional strips of paper and drew, in greater detail, a single leg below the main group. 

Edgar Degas (1834–1917) 
Study for “Scene from the Steeplechase: The Fallen Jockey,” 1866
Black and dark-brown chalks with stumping on blued white wove paper
9 1/8 x 14 1/8 in. (23.2 x 35.9 cm)
Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts, 1955.1397


Degas made this drawing in preparation for a painting now in the National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.), in which a jockey falls from his horse during a steeplechase — a challenging event requiring horse and rider to leap over various obstacles. The horse’s tail and the stirrup swing backward as the animal flies through the air. 

Edgar Degas (1834–1917) 
Man Riding, c. 1875–77
Brush and black essence with additions in brown and white gouache and white chalk on oiled brown wove paper
9 11/16 x 13 1/2 in. (24.6 x 34.3 cm)
Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts, 1955.1400


Here a trainer or groom in his typical garb of jacket and bowler hat leans forward on his horse in a galloping position. Degas applied oil to the paper to enrich its tone and create a smooth surface, on which he applied essence — thinned oil paint — with rapid movements of the brush.  

Edgar Degas (1834–1917) 
Three Ballet Dancers, c. 1878–80
Monotype on cream laid paper
Sheet: 14 x 20 3/16 in. (35.6 x 51.3 cm)
Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts, 1955.1386


Depicted from the vantage point of a seat in the balcony of a theater, two dancers execute rapid jumps in unison while a third kneels in a dramatic pose. To produce this monotype, Degas covered a metal plate entirely with black ink and used a cloth and his fingertips selectively to wipe ink away. He then pressed the plate onto paper and gave the unique impression to his friend Alphonse Cherfils, as indicated by the inscription. 

Edgar Degas (1834–1917) 
The Violinist: Study for “The Rehearsal,” c. 1879
Charcoal with white chalk on blue-gray laid paper
17 1/8 x 11 15/16 in. (43.5 x 30.3 cm)
Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute,
Williamstown, Massachusetts, 1955.1395


This rapid sketch is a study for a painting of a ballet rehearsal in the Frick’s permanent collection. In this sheet, Degas devotes his attention to the position of the violin accompanist and the back-and-forth motion of his bow. Touches of white chalk indicating light shining on the man’s face make clear that Degas was already picturing the man in relation to the studio windows in the painting.  

Edgar Degas (1834–1917) 
At the Louvre: The Etruscan Sarcophagus, c. 1879
Graphite and gray wash on blued white wove paper
4 1/4 x 6 7/16 in. (10.8 x 16.3 cm)
Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts, 1971.36


In this drawing, made in front of the Louvre’s terracotta Sarcophagus of the Spouses from the sixth century  b.c.e., Degas records the work in its gallery surroundings, taking careful note of the reflections of light on the glass case. In an etched composition he developed from the drawing, Degas included the American artist Mary Cassatt, standing and looking in, and her sister, Lydia, seated and consulting a book. 

Edgar Degas (1834–1917) 
Jockey on a Rearing Horse, 1890s
Black chalk and pastel on cream wove paper
9 3/16 x 14 3/16 in. (23.3 x 36 cm)
Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts, 1955.1399 


Horseracing was a favorite subject of Degas’s. In this later exploration of the theme, Degas gives emphasis to the arrangement of the rearing horse’s head and front legs, seemingly caught in motion. His vigorous execution captures the musculature of the animal and the sheen of its coat. 

Edgar Degas (1834–1917) 
Woman Standing in a Bathtub, c. 1890–92
Charcoal with stumping on beige wove paper
17 x 11 5/8 in. (43.2 x 29.5 cm)
Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts, 1955.1394


This vigorously executed drawing of a woman absorbed in the intimate act of bathing, seemingly unaware of artist or viewer, is one of several of Degas’s late reprisals of the academic nudes he drew as a student. 

Edgar Degas (1834–1917) 
After the Bath, c. 1891–92
Charcoal with stumping on beige wove paper
14 x 9 3/4 in. (35.5 x 24.8 cm)
Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts, 1955.1408


An example of Degas’s rethinking of the classical subject of the bather, this sheet exhibits the confident, animated draftsmanship of the mature artist.