Edgar Degas: A Strange New Beauty (Kids)

*Lady with a Parasol (Femme à l’ombrelle)*

Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas. Lady with a Parasol (Femme à l’ombrelle) 6002

Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas (French, 1834–1917). Lady with a Parasol (Femme à l’ombrelle). c. 1870–72. Oil on canvas. 29 5/8 × 33 7/16″ (75.3 × 85 cm). The Samuel Courtauld Trust, The Courtauld Gallery, London

Narrator: Find the big painting of a woman on this wall. The woman carries a kind of umbrella, called a parasol, to shade herself from the bright sunlight. It’s hard to see her – she is just a black silhouette. Degas made this painting with black, grey, and white marks and captures the light and shadow moving across the scene.

Now find the painting nearby that shows another woman holding a parasol and talking to a friend. This is called At the Races. Visiting the racetrack and watching the races were popular pastimes. Can you find the horse in the background here? It’s a black shape, blurry and far away.

Jodi Hauptman: Instead of focusing on the horses, Degas is really looking at the two women as they bend into each other. Maybe they're gossiping or talking about what's happening around them. But their faces are hidden by the veils they wear, that both protect them from the dirt and dust of the racetrack, but also prevents us from exactly seeing them.

Narrator: Look closely at the women’s faces. Those black dots are part of the veils they wear. What parts of their faces did Degas paint? – and what parts are missing?

In both of the works that we’ve looked at, Degas didn’t paint every detail. It’s up to us to imagine the rest.

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