Degas Portrait of Tissot Essay

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Rosie Wahlers Masterpieces of Western Art James-Jacques-Joseph Tissot (1836-1902) Edgar Degas (1867-8) Paris, France 39.161 Aura of an Artist The Metropolitan Museum of Art boasts an impressive array of work by the 19th century French Masters– according to its website, “the most important collection of large-scale painting by these masters outside of France.” The gallery “Manet and Impressionism” is populated by titillating portraits: there are proud matadors and elegant women, a crucified Christ, a vibrant bouquet of flowers beside an elderly lady. But there is one that really tempts my eye: a portrait of a serious man dressed in a dark suit. It is Jean-Jacques-Joseph Tissot by Edgar Degas (1867-8). It is a portrait of a painter who is surrounded by paintings, one of which is another portrait. Tissot, a friend of Degas’s, is seated sideways across a wooden chair in his art studio. Surrounding him is a variety of paintings that all extend beyond the boundaries of the frame with short bursts of colorful brush strokes… except for one: the little portrait within the portrait. This tiny painting portrays the bust of a portly nobleman, backed by baby blue. Tissot, in contrast, is a slender full-figure amid muted brown and grey hues, and seems more casual. As he slings one arm across the back of the chair, the other arm props him up against a table. On this table, a black top hat is toppled over and a black cape is draped. Tissot’s hair is as jet black as his outfit. He looks right back at us with sharp, discerning facial features. Many of these interrelated elements converge to construct Tissot’s identity as an intense and sophisticated, yet laidback and open-minded artist: Degas portrays Tissot in a candid pose in an open composition, within the creative setting of the art studio, while articulating the scene with a variety of contrasting brush

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