Manet / Degas
Édouard Manet (1832-1883) and Edgar Degas (1834-1917) were both key players in the new painting of the 1860s-80s. This exhibition, which brings together the two painters in the light of their contrasts, forces us to take a new look at their real complicity. It shows what was heterogeneous and conflicting in pictorial modernity, and reveals the value of the Degas collection where Manet took a greater place after his death.
Bringing together artists as crucial as Manet and Degas cannot be limited to identifying the similarities offered by their respective corpuses. Admittedly, among these essential actors of the new painting of the years 1860-80, there is no lack of analogies concerning the subjects they imposed (from horse racing to café scenes, from prostitution to the tub), the genres they reinvented, the realism that they opened up to other formal and narrative potentialities, the market and the collectors that they managed to tame, the places (cafés, theaters) and the circles, family (Berthe Morisot) or friendly, where they met.
Before and after the birth of Impressionism, on which the exhibition takes a fresh look, what differentiated or opposed them is even more striking. Of dissimilar training and temperaments, they do not share the same tastes in literature and music. Their divergent choices in terms of exposure and career cooled, from 1873-1874, the budding friendship that bound them, a friendship reinforced by their common experience of the war of 1870 and the aftermath of the Commune. One cannot compare the former’s quest for recognition and the latter’s stubborn refusal to use the official channels of legitimization. And if we consider the private sphere, once the years of youth are over, everything separates them. To the sociability of Manet, very open, and quickly quite brilliant, to his domestic choices, respond the secret existence of Degas and his restricted entourage.
Because it brings together Manet and Degas in the light of their contrasts, and shows how much they define themselves by distinguishing themselves, this exhibition, rich in masterpieces never before brought together and an unprecedented partnership, forces us to bring a new a look at the short-lived complicity and enduring rivalry of two giants. The journey also makes more salient what pictorial modernity, in its point of emergence, then of growth and success, had of conflict, heterogeneity, unforeseen. He finally gives all its value to the collection of Degas where, after the death of Manet, the latter took an increasingly imperious place. Death had reconciled them.
This exhibition is organized by the Musées d’Orsay and de l’Orangerie and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York where it will be presented from September 2023 to January 2024.