cover image Edgar Degas

Edgar Degas

Rizzoli, Chris Sutton, Denys Sutton. Rizzoli International Publications, $85 (343pp) ISBN 978-0-8478-0733-8

Degas' pictures of bathers and ballerinas leave no doubt that he appreciated feminine beauty, but, according to friends, he disliked women and was impotent. This fastidious bachelor was one of the most reticent of artists. Sutton, a British art critic, attempts to pierce the aura of secrecy in a biographical study that combines magnificent art reproductions and a dry text. Here is Degas the young apprentice in Naples and Rome worshipping Giotto, Titian and Bellini; and the cosmopolite whose circle included Renoir, Tissot, Gauguin, Whistler, Morisot, Cassatt, Pissarro. Degas's little-known forays into historical painting conjure up an ancient world full of vitality. Also here are his late pastels, lyrical serenades that look as if they were done by Turner. Pictures of laundresses, absinthe-drinkers, jockeys and Parisian street scenes are treated in separate chapters that establish Degas' debt to the realism of Daumier and the Goncourt brothers. (January 16)