Edgar Degas: A Strange New Beauty

*The Client (Le Client)*

Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas. The Client (Le Client). 1879 609

Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas (French, 1834–1917). The Client (Le Client). 1879. Monotype on paper. Plate: 8 7/16 × 6 1/4″ (21.5 × 15.9 cm). Musée Picasso, Paris. © RMN-Grand Palais/Art Resource, NY

Untitled Document

NARRATOR: Prostitution was a popular subject in late nineteenth-century French art. Yet the women in Degas’s brothel scenes appear radically different from their counterparts in pornographic photography or the art of other artists. Hollis Clayson.

HOLLIS CLAYSON: One of the things that is striking ... is the actual anatomy of these two women sitting on the couch. The ability to imagine bodies that are awkward and ungainly, even right at the moment of ostensible seduction of a client, is a very ... contradictory and surprising move.

JODI HAUPTMAN: Degas never addresses the interiors of brothels in painting or other kinds of drawing. It's only in monotype. So it raises this question, ... Why did Degas think monotype was ... a good medium to address this particular subject and at that particular scale?

HOLLIS CLAYSON: The Client is a superb example of his interest in ... setting aside ... traditional formulas for idealized, naked female flesh and replacing them with a language ... for bodies that are really given over to the world of commercial exchange, bodies no longer ... in possession of what we might call ... specific, psychic interiors but indeed are all exterior, are all flesh, you might say, and almost absent, individual temperament and personality. And I think that's ... one of the key things we can see him working to achieve, ... in these very unusual, very idiosyncratic prints.

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