INTRODUCTION
 

Union College is pleased to present this exhibition as a complement to the magnificent Degas & Music, currently on view at the Hyde Collection, Glens Falls, New York. As that exhibition demonstrates, Edgar Degas (1834-1917) was not simply interested in music as a theme. Music was central to Degas’ entire artistic process, from his idiosyncratic personal iconography of Parisian modernity (dancers, musicians, and singers) to his restless and systematic experimentation with traditional artistic form. His relationship to music was a unique phenomenon, but it is wholly at home in the complex artistic world of 19th century Paris.

We hope to reveal some of this complexity through our exhibition of a select number of prints by Degas’ contemporaries. Though only two printmaking techniques are represented – etching and lithography – the wide range of aesthetic effects evident in them reveals the visual richness of 19th century Parisian print culture, from the realism of Charles Jacque to the virtual abstraction of James Abbott McNeill Whistler. All of the artists in this exhibition were known by Degas; in many cases, he maintained close personal and artistic relationships, collected their work, and even owned versions of the prints we include here. In this regard, this small group of works can also shed light onto Degas’ aesthetic appreciation of the work of some of his contemporaries. Ultimately, we hope to provide a glimpse into the visual context of Degas’ prodigious artistic activity. As in his relationship with contemporary musical culture, his engagement with contemporary prints was a dynamic, synthetic, and fruitful one. This exhibition was curated by Prof. David Ogawa, Department of Visual Arts, with the assistance of Kelly Craparotta, Union '09.