MY FRIEND DEGAS by Daniel Halevy


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Along with the success of his graceful dancers and horses, the Romanticist painter Dagas had a acquired a personal reputation for a social moodiness and--despite his bathing nudes, a nearly misogynous indifference. Here is a portrait daubed by his own remarks, opinions, and conversational replies, the man emerges gentler, happier, and more humanly concerned than history's usual image of him. In a journal begun in 1888 at the age of 16, Halevy (scholar and savent in his own right) recalls the painter's Words form the Halevy family dinner table, the poor man's Montamartre studio, and form encounters with friends and artists of the time--Manet, Ingres, Mallarme. Throughout the constant struggle against financial ruin and the sadder fact of his ever worsening blindness, Degas retained his austere humor, his lifelong affair with brush and oils, and the severity of his judgments and opinions about people and painting. He individualized people, depriving them of their fondest self-illusions; but his comment on painting read like vague outlines of a deep secret, for he refused to expatiate abstractly upon his art. ""Inside my studio, What use is my mind?"" he asked. Only When blindness prevented brushwork, did he turn to sonnets and photography. The journal continues until 1917, the year of Degas' death at 84--a frank, engaging personal record touched with all young diarist's fondness for his idol. With the welcome addition of careful annotations for the many French figures involved in the painter's life, this book deserves its place along with Degas' own letters in a portrait of the painter as an old man.

Publisher: Wesleyan University Press