Kathryn Brown, ed.
Perspectives on Degas
New Books in ArtNew Books in Arts & LettersNew Books in European StudiesNew Books in French StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books Network November 22, 2017 Roxanne Panchasi
Edgar Degas died in the fall of 1917. Marking this 100th anniversary, Kathryn Brown‘s edited collection, Perspectives on Degas (Routledge, 2016) brings together a range of authors and methodologies to consider the French artist in context, to examine aspects of his practice in terms of form and technique, and to think and rethink critical approaches to Degas and his legacies. Working in Europe, North America, and Asia, the volume’s fascinating and provocative essays introduce the reader to the artist in a number of ways while building on, responding to, and challenging some of the traditions and conclusions of previous Degas scholarship.
Featuring an introduction as well an essay by its editor, the collection is divided into three parts. In the first section, Art in Context; Gender, Race, and Labour, authors Norma Broude, Shao-Chien Tseng, Mary Hunter, and Anthea Callen examine Degas’s representation of working women and horses, racecourses, the “cafe-concert,” female spectators, and circus performers. The second part of the book, Making and Materiality highlights the production and physicality of the art that Degas produced as objects. Exploring the relationship of Degas’s painting to photography, the internal structures of his sculptures, and aspects of his printmaking and illustration, the essays by Marni Reva Kessler, Patricia Failing, Jonas Beyer, and Brown herself, are analyses grounded in the very practical and technical aspects of what and how the artist made. In the third section of the book, Writing Degas, authors Ruth Iskin, Heather Dawkins, and Anna Gruetz Robbins all pursue the testimonies and criticism of Degas’s friends, colleagues, and art historians, as well as his own reflections on his relationships, and the studio space where he worked. Moving in many different directions, the essays nevertheless cohere as a set with the aim of complicating our understanding of the artist, reconsidering previous assumptions, and opening up new questions about his oeuvre. This was my first interview with an author/editor of a collection and it was a pleasure learning more about how this group of essays came together in such an impressive volume.
Roxanne Panchasi is an Associate Professor in the Department of History at Simon Fraser University. Her current research focuses on the representation of nuclear weapons and testing in France and its empire since 1945. She lives and reads in Vancouver, Canada. If you have a recent title to suggest for the podcast, please send an email to: [email protected].
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