Degas’ World – The Rage for Change
National Gallery of Australia – Canberra
Exhibition closes March 22, 2009
Blast-furnaces of Charleroi 1898
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Felix Man Collection,
Special Government Grant 1972
The exhibition Degas’ world: the rage for change is less specifically about Degas than the world he inhabited. It is about his fellow artist and friends—those who inspired him, and those he, in turn, inspired. It includes works by some of the late nineteenth century’s most famous artists—Paul Cézanne, Paul Gauguin, Camille Pissarro, Pierre Bonnard, Paul Signac, Mary Cassat and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec,
as well as some of their most influential precursors, such as Camille Corot and Honoré Daumier.
Degas world, as an exhibition, is less about the clichés of sweetness and light, with which Impressionism has been interminably burdened, than it is about the real world. And, in reality, Degas’ world was a world in the throes of change, both socially and economically. It was one of sexual and economic exploitation, of poverty, of political commentary, of industry and its pollution and of emerging feminism.
Each of the artists in the exhibition has in some way joined the pantheon of those who were at the forefront of the rage for change that characterised the period, a rage that would see the world of the nineteenth century hurtling headlong into the chaos of the twentieth.