IN SEPTEMBER 1892, at the home of the Halkvy family, Degas announced the recent completion of a series of landscapes; he went on to describe them as:
'The fruits of my travels this summer. I stood at the doors of railway carriages and looked around vaguely. That gave me the idea of doing some landscapes. There are 21 of them.' 'What? Very vague things?' 'Perhaps' 'States of mind?' said my father. 'Amiel has said "A landscape is a state of mind." Do you like the phrase?' 'States of eyes' replied Degas. 'We do not use such pretentious language.'
'... Degas and Mallarme, whose one aim in life was to arrive at perfecting a particular form, a particular system of words, but who invested the vain objects of their longings and labours with a kind of infinity...' (Paul Valery)
DEGAS'S captivating power lies in the high tension that he sustains. Tension presupposes duality, and Degas is dual at many levels. Most frequently recognised in discussions of his work are dualities of influence: his assimilation, for instance, of the contradictory examples of Ingres and Delacroix, and the devotion to the old masters that accom-panied and nourished his radical innovations.
EDGAR DEGAS'S acerbic pronouncements on the art market are well known. Yet early in his career, the artist who later sarcastically and rather bitterly referred to selling what he called 'mes articles', consciously planned to satisfy a specific market with his painting A cotton office in New Orleans, painted in New Orleans in 1873 (Fig.36). Extant literature on the painting has not fully investigated this venture. The present article provides a preliminary report on issues to be discussed more fully in a forthcoming book.
RECENTLY Degas's only known painting on a ceramic tile came to light in a private collection (Fig.43). Although its medium was correctly recorded in an exhibition held not long after the artist's death, the painting, a vivid image of a cafe-concert singer, had disappeared from sight for several decades. Known only from old black-and-white photographs, the little picture has given rise to some confusion, and has even been erroneously catalogued as a monotype. Fortunately, it has now been possible to study the painting in some detail, making it possible not only to situate the object more accurately within Degas's oeuvre, but also to open up some intriguing queries about his cafe-concert motifs.
IN DECEMBER 1933 the aging Sickert wrote one of his frequent letters to The Times, protesting that the paper had misspelt Degas's name by putting an accent over the 'e' ('the simplest mnemonic is to remember that the name, as inherited by the painter, was De Gas'). The English habit of mispronouncing Degas had been Sickert's bete noire since he had met the artist fifty years earlier, in Paris. The purpose of the present note, which draws on some unpublished sources such as the annotations to Sickert's two copies of Jamot's life of Degas, is to review Sickert's friendship with, and championship of Degas, often recorded in the English artist's contributions to this Magazine.
OCTAVE M IRBEAU( 1848-1917), the 'defenseurc haud, delicat, consciencieux, sympathique', to quote Camille Pissarro, is today well-known as a champion of the advanced painters of his day - especially Monet, Renoir, Pissarro, Cezanne and Gauguin – as a promoter of the sculptors Rodin and Maillol, as a naturalist playwright and novelist, as a critic of contemporary music, and as a collector – he owned, among other important works, Van Gogh's celebrated Irises sold last year by the Payson family. Until recently, however, Mirbeau was not often thought of in connection with Degas. Even if the character of the artist Lirat in Mirbeau's novel Le Calvaire of 1886 prompted Pissarro to query 'Et l'artiste Lirat est-il assez Degas?' there has been little else to connect the painter with Mirbeau, who, with Huysmans and Feneon, was one of the most important Parisian art critics of the 1880s and 1890s. However, the rediscovery by Charles Moffett and Ruth Berson of the contemporary criticism of the eight Impressionist exhibitions (held in Paris between 1874 and 1886), in preparation for the 1986 exhibition The New Painting, has brought to light several short pieces by the young Mirbeau which deepen our understanding of the critic's interests. Included among their discoveries are a remarkable review of the 1886 Impressionist exhibition, and an article on Degas of 1884, which is here reprinted. The 1884 article will not be included in the compilation of reviews of the Impressionist exhibitions that Moffett and Berson are presently preparing (since it does not refer to a specific exhibition) and they have kindly allowed its republication here.