An Old ‘Strange New Beauty’

Above detail from Three Ballet Dancers, c. 1878-80. Photograph by the author.

Edgar Degas: A Strange New Beauty is now open at the Museum of Modern Art through July 24th; it is comprised primarily of monotypes created by the prolific artist from the mid-1870’s through the 1890’s. His subjects include bathers, dancers, prostitutes, members of the Parisian bourgeoisie and intelligentsia, and French landscapes. The exhibition, with its somewhat paradoxical title, is absolutely incredible and a must-see, not just because Degas is a master of printmaking, but also because of the intriguing setting for his work. Unlike the Met, the MoMA is not particularly renowned for its Impressionist collection and usually panders to the public with commercialized shows starring Sixties Pop artists and even media celebrities (just google ‘MoMA criticized’ and you’ll find yourself falling down a rabbit hole of articles explaining why writers such as Jerry Saltz are “burning” their museum press passes in the aftermath of the Björk retrospective fiasco). However, with regards to Degas, reviewers have had very few complaints. As I feel I cannot exactly do it justice myself, here are some of my favorite articles about A Strange New Beauty, as covered in the NY Times by Roberta Smith and in the WSJ by Karen Wilkin. I will say that neither journalist succeeds at conveying the bewitching and almost brooding, as well as kinetic nature of the by and large black and white pieces. For that sort of experience, you’ll have to head over to 53rd and 6th. 

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