ca. 1900, Edgar Degas
Pastel on tinted paper, mounted on canvas
47.5 x 32.5 cm
Stamp on bottom left: "Atelier Ed Degas"
In his last known self-portrait Degas gets very close to the viewer, providing a sober, objective and merciless view of age and illness. His dull gaze reveals the eye problems from which he suffered from the 1870s onwards, isolating him and causing him to experiment with new techniques, such as drawing using pastel. The image is in many ways reminiscent of Chardin's famous self-portrait, which is set against a similar background.
Edgar Degas was born in Paris in 1834 where he died in 1917.
Degas had retreated into the cosmos of his studio in the 1890s. Only a small number of people, including the viewer of this pastel drawing, was granted an insight into his refuge. Those who had access to him spoke of the tirelessness with which he worked. He created many sculptures and sketches on the subject of bathers, one of which is visible in the background here. Degas engaged in countless experiments, sometimes using photography (which he also liked to use as an aide-mémoire for his portraits) and at other times using daring compositional techniques such as this, which were profoundly influenced by Japanese woodcuts printed in colour.