A strong and dark impression of Delteil and Adhémar/Cachin’s fifth and final state, Reed and Shapiro’s fourth state of four Printed after the addition of the cancellation lines to the plate, from the edition of 150 issued by Ambroise Vollard circa 1919-20 (there were only approximately 15 impressions printed by Degas prior to the cancellation of the plate). Catalogue reference: Reed Shapiro 8 iv/iv; Delteil 1 v/v; Adhémar/Cachin v/v 13.
Literature regarding this artwork: Roger Passeron, Impressionist Prints, The Wellfleet Press, New Jersey, 1974, p. 61 (ill.); Herman J. Wechsler, Great Prints Printmakers, Leon Amiel, Publisher, New York, 1977, pl. 67, p. 173 (ill.); Una E. Johnson, AmbroiseVollard, Editeur: Prints-Books-Bronzes, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1977, no. 28; Michel Melot, The Impressionist Print, Yale University Press, New Haven London, 1996, pp. 43-43 (ill.).
This probing self-appraisal was made when the artist was only twenty-three years old. The maturity of Degas's gaze is matched by the sophistication of his technique. A work of surprising complexity for a relatively young practitioner of the art, this etching was clearly inspired by the early graphic self-portraits of Rembrandt. Degas gleaned from the Baroque master his capacity to create an atmosphere from which a convincing presence emerges. In the 1850s Degas frequently used himself as a model for portrait drawings and oil paintings. This etching, his only self-portrait in a print medium, follows very closely, in reverse, a drawing that served as its model. Degas stands, facing three-quarters front, holding drawing tools in his left hand. He wears a broad brimmed, soft hat that throws his face into shadow. Degas printed only approximately 15 impressions of this etching during his lifetime. An edition of 150 impressions was printed after Degas’ death for Ambroise Vollard, who planned to utilize them as part of a book on the artist. Lloys Delteil learned of this Vollard project as his own catalogue raisonné of the graphic oeuvre of Degas was at press. Vollard abandoned his book project and the etching, along with twenty other cancelled-plate Degas etchings, were issued separately without a cover or title page. The copper plate for this self-portrait was acquired by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1960. This heavy copper plate, the kind traditionally used by professional etchers, attests to the seriousness of Degas’ self-portrait undertaking.
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