Sunday, November 7, 2010

Fearless or Ruthless

I am in the middle of reading a book I recently checked out of the local library called: "Cezanne to Picasso, Abroise Vollard, Patron of the Avante-Garde" Rebecca A. Rabinow, Editor, Douglas W. Druik, Ann Dumas, Gloria Groom, Anne Roquebert, and Gary Tinterow.
The current chapter, "Bollard and Degas by Gary Tinterow, with research by Asher E. Miller", is of particular interest to me as I've been thinking quite a bit about how ruthlessness and fearlessness are used by the artist. This particular tome more so about the dealer of art, Abroise Vollard, and his relationships with the prominent figures of the french impressionists movement.

I must add that part of the conversation that I've been having with myself has been about the artists that I consider the game changers of art, not all individuals: the impressionists, Dali, Picasso, and Pollack are some of the last 120 years or so. This comment of course applies to the old masters, but for the point of this blog, I am merely focusing on the more contemporary. Feel free to comment on whom might be added to this list.

I recently watched a DVD about the art of Degas and although a interesting and visually lovely, I was intrigued by a section of the the film that mentioned how Degas had begun a new medium: pastelized monotypes as to generate up to three sellable prints from one original work. The film only touched on this fact and much to my surprise, the book listed above delves much more deeply. I regret that the following is not focused on the dealer Vollard, but rather the Durand-Ruels, also art dealers and promoters, contemporaries of Vollard.

"The Durand-Ruels, both father (Paul) and son (Joseph), had good reason to feel proprietary about Degas. Though they had no contract, their gallery had been the primary-though never exclusive- outlet for the works that degas wished to sell since 1874.
During the 1870's and 1880's Degas wished to sell almost anything he made (with the notable exception of sculpture), and he even developed a new medium, pastelized monotypes, in order to generate up to three works from the same composition and thus increase his salable "articles" as he called his commercial output. He needed the income because in addition to paying for an affluent bachelor's life, three to five nights a week at the opera, models, and a maid, he undertook, with his brother in law Henri Fevre, to redeem the debts accumulated at this father's bank by this profligate brother Rene. It was not uncommon for Degas to send his maid or a porter to Durand-Ruel, pastels in hand, with a note demanding that he dealer hand over 500 francs in cash to the bearer. Degas treated the gallery like his private bank, depositing work and withdrawing cash. He never never shrank from asking Durand-Ruel to pay his bills or to buy something-usually a a work of art- that he wanted."

Fearless? Ruthless? Or something else entirely?

All images shown are by Edgar Degas