Mad for Degas

From Harvard Magazine:

Degas In 1911 the little Fogg Art Museum mounted the only one-man museum exhibition to occur during his lifetime of works by Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas (1834-1917). It was a daring departure from practice. The artist was not a dead Old Master. His subjects, realistically represented—jockeys, ballet girls, laundresses, and what a critic called “creatures whose chief pre-occupation seems to be…the taking of baths”—seemed to some viewers unworthy of attention.

1degas Although the loan show consisted of only 12 works, was up only nine and a half days, and generated expenses of $178.70 (more than the $158.98 raised to fund it), Edward W. Forbes, A.B. 1895, who had become director of the Fogg in 1909, judged the exhibition a success. A high-Brahmin Bostonian with a penchant for early Italian pictures, he wrote a disdainful patron: “I think this show is an excellent thing for the Fogg Museum. It is bringing hundreds of people into the building who would never come before and who, perhaps, could have been reached in no other way except by a modern show.” Attendance totaled 550.

Thus began the museum’s keen and continuing interest in this artist, now celebrated in an exhibition, Degas at Harvard, which encompasses 62 works in many media (including a book of sonnets) gathered from the Fogg, the Houghton Library, and Dumbarton Oaks, Harvard’s research library and art collection in Washington, D.C. It will run from August 1 to November 27, filling the galleries of the Arthur M. Sackler Museum. 

More here.