National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Madame René de Gas Edgar Degas (artist)
French, 1834 - 1917
Madame René de Gas, 1872/1873
oil on canvas
overall: 72.9 x 92 cm (28 11/16 x 36 1/4 in.) framed: 100.3 x 119.7 cm (39 1/2 x 47 1/8 in.)
Chester Dale Collection
On View
From the Tour: Edgar Degas
Object 2 of 7

This portrait of one of the artist's sisters-in-law was painted while Degas was in the United States. His mother had been born in Louisiana, and his younger brothers joined relatives in the family's cotton trade in New Orleans. During a visit there Degas executed this portrait of his brother René's American born wife Estelle. She was a woman haunted by misfortune. Four of her six children died. Her first husband had been killed during the Civil War, and she was later abandoned by René. When Degas painted her she was completely blind.

Degas himself suffered poor eyesight, and had already lost some vision by the time he was in his thirties. Perhaps for this reason, his portrait of Estelle seems particularly sympathetic. Her unfocused gaze appears almost contemplative. The diffuse light around her obscures detail, and Degas' restricted range of tones -- dove grays, dull pinks, and off-whites -- gives the sensation of vision that is soft but indistinct.

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