“This exhibition is a reflection of the vibrancy and growth of both the City of Petaluma and the Petaluma Arts Center,” said Val Richman, executive director of PAC. “This Degas exhibition, just six years after opening our doors, is an indication of the organization’s trajectory and ambition. After all, we are poised at the entrance to the wine country, a world-class destination, and the arts are central to the lifestyle experiences our community and visitors have come to expect.”
Featuring more than 100 works on paper, the exhibition includes 40 drawings, prints, pastels, and photographs by Degas from his early days of making studies of works at the Louvre to late in his career.
Intimate and thought-provoking, the exhibition offers a personal glimpse of the artist at work, often using family and friends as subjects. Also included in the show are works on paper by artists in his circle, including Mary Cassatt, Paul Cézanne, Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingres, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.
Edgar Degas was one of the founders of Impressionism and a key figure in the development of modernism. Yet he is often referred to as the “reluctant Impressionist” because he had fundamental differences with them. He neither adapted their color palette nor their practice of plein air painting. His emphasis on line countered their emphasis on form. However, most experts agree that he is more aligned with Impressionism than any other movement. His scenes of contemporary life, off-center and cropped compositions, and experiments with color are among the hallmarks of Impressionist style. He also played a significant role in organizing the independent exhibiting society that came to be called the Impressionists. The first of their exhibitions was held in 1874 and Degas showed in all but one of their eight exhibitions.
Degas was a brilliant artist who worked in a wide variety of media from painting, pastel and drawing, to monotype, sculpture, and photography. Yet, during his lifetime, he rarely exhibited anything other than his paintings and pastels. Thus, this exhibition explores the private side of Degas in the works he largely kept to himself for his own creative experimentation. As Degas said, “Is painting done to be looked at? Do you understand me? One works for two or three friends who are alive and others who are dead or unknown. Is it any business of journalists if I make pictures, boots, or cloth slippers? Painting concerns one’s private life.” This exhibition explores not only the art of Degas but also his character and, with the inclusion of numerous works by those in his circle, illuminates the artistic creativity of fin de siècle Paris.
Degas works include:
Mlle Dembowska, ca. 1858-1859 (cat. 12)
Plough Horse, ca 1860-61 (cat. 15)
Mary Cassatt At The Louvre: The Paintings Gallery, ca. 1879-80 (cat. 38)
Heads of a Man and Woman, ca 1877-78 (cat. 43)
Also, by other artists of his circle:
Mary Cassatt, Under The Lamp, 1882 (cat. 64)
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Portrait of a Woman, 1894 (cat. 95)
James Jacques Joseph Tissot, Young Woman in Shooting Costume, ca 1894-97 (cat. 94)
David Levine, Edgar Degas, 1964 (cat. 101)
All the works in Degas: The Private Impressionist are drawn from the collection of Robert Flynn Johnson, Curator Emeritus of the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. The exhibit is co-curated by Johnson and Louise Siddons Ph.D., Assistant Professor and Curator of Collections at Oklahoma State University, Stillwater.
Petaluma Arts Center
Housed in the historic Railroad Station freight building, next to the Petaluma Visitors Center, the Petaluma Arts Center hosts art exhibitions, concerts, performances, art classes for people of all ages, literary and film lectures, and community events. The Arts Center grew out of the grassroots Petaluma Arts Council, founded in 1998 with a goal of acknowledging and celebrating local artists and their contributions. The council opened the arts center 10 years later, in September 2008. Located next to the upcoming SMART commuter train station in developing Midtown Petaluma, the arts center is experiencing a renaissance along with the growth of the arts in Sonoma County.