Although better known for his Impressionist paintings and prints, Degas spent five years making photographs of family members and artist friends. “These days, Degas abandons himself entirely to his new passion for photography," wrote a peer in 1895. After dinner parties ended, he enlisted fellow guests as models. In this photograph, the poet Stéphane Mallarmé looks down at the painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir. In the mirror behind them, Degas can be glimpsed operating the camera, using a bright magnesium flash. Photographing indoors was difficult during this time, given the technological limitations; even with the flash and nine carefully arranged kerosene lamps, his sitters still needed to hold their poses for several minutes.
Gallery label from 2021