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Degas and Cassat in their own words

September 5, 2020

“Art is vice. You don’t marry it legitimately, you rape it.”

“I should like to be famous and unknown.”

“Boredom soon overcomes me when I am contemplating nature.”

“You have to have a high conception, not of what you are doing, but of what you may do one day.
Without that, there is no point in working.”

“If painting is no longer needed, it seems a pity that some of us are born into the world with such a passion for line and color”

“The first sight of Degas’ pictures was the turning point of my artistic life.”

“Sometimes it made him furious that he could not find a chink in my armor, and there would be months when we just could not see each other, and then something I painted would bring us together again.”

“I will not admit a woman can draw like that.”

“I, marry? Oh, I could never bring myself to do it. I would have been in mortal misery all my life for fear my wife might say, “That’s a pretty little thing” after I had finished a picture.”

“A picture is a thing which requires as much knavery, as much malice, and as much vice as the preparation of a crime. Make it untrue and add in an accent of truth.”

“Apart from my heart, I feel everything grows old in me. Even my heart has something artificial. It has been sewn by the dancers in a soft pink satin purse, like their shoes.”

Edgar Degas 1834 – 1917

“There is only one thing in life for a woman; it is to be a mother.
A woman artist must be capable of making primary sacrifices.”

“It is as well not to have too great an admiration for your master’s work.
You will be in less danger of imitating him.”

“I have not done what I wanted to, but I tried to make a good fight.”

Mary Cassat 1844 – 1926

19 Comments leave one →
  1. Nora permalink
    September 5, 2020 11:48 AM

    I understand that these are not your quotes, but the first one, with the word rape in it, is completely insensitive. Marc… it’s unnecessary and really thoughtless. I wonder if you would consider deleting that one. Please and thank you. Nora MacPhail

    • September 5, 2020 12:57 PM

      Thanks for your comment Nora. I was expecting to hear it from someone, and I do hear you. (Edit: I just read a bit about the rise in the flippant use of the word in America, and I agreed with the editorials – also that it’s as bad as using the word slavery in jest). But – I feel the erasure of our heroes bad behavior – by the avoidance of quoting true statements, or ‘sanitizing’ of historic fact, would the greater mistake. Degas should be judged by his own words, as we all will be. That quote is an indictment of the man, and the times, and a demonstration of how far we have come. I hope.

      • Nora permalink
        September 6, 2020 10:30 PM

        Actually, the point that Jeff made, that it is likely a translation from French is a really important one. Something could be lost in translation and or nuance from what he intended.
        Nonetheless, it doesn’t “demonstrate how far we’ve come” or “the times” of the man”…. We have in no way “come far” from sexual assault. It’s part of our times right now.

        Thank you for taking my comment seriously and responding.

  2. September 5, 2020 12:42 PM

    I love the art of suggestion, especially in the period clothing. Love these! I do have to say, though, that I’ve always been partial to your watercolors. lol

  3. Judy Sopher permalink
    September 5, 2020 1:46 PM

    Your talent amazes me.


  4. Maureen Vermilya permalink
    September 5, 2020 2:26 PM

    I also am partial to your watercolors and these little jewels are wonderful. The quotes are revealing of Degas especially. ..and from what I have read about him…right on. Admired as an artist but often not very well liked as a human being.

  5. Jeff permalink
    September 5, 2020 2:46 PM

    We knew that Degas was not a very nice guy, so none of this is a surprise. In his defense, I imagine his comments were translated from the French and maybe a little nuance was lost in the hundred years or so since he wrote them. If nothing has been lost then it’s good for people to know what he was like.

    I like these paintings. Thanks for posting them.

    • September 5, 2020 3:14 PM

      There is also his painting Le Viol – which is a very odd and disturbing painting. I know when I paint something grim, my mood is affected during the whole process. I can’t imagine why he would paint that image, and title it as such. Today we push back against television that assaults women and children nightly and calls it entertainment. This seems to be the art-historical equivalent. Partially condemning the act, but also painted with a creepy kind of bravado.

  6. September 5, 2020 3:46 PM

    I just was selected as finalist in a portrait competition after spending some time down a glorious rabbit hole exploring Mary’s work and life! Don’t think I can post a photo here though 🥴.
    Fabulous portraits Marc, I love your power of and over the beautiful subtleties of greys!

  7. September 5, 2020 6:04 PM

    Marc, this is a mighty good post. Quotes from earlier painters are excellent starting points for further reading. Your portraits are fabulous. You come into your own when you paint like this in watercolour.
    Carol-Lynn Bond

  8. September 5, 2020 10:49 PM

    Worthy of little chapbook–the quotes and your drawings. Such mastery of the not quite finished…
    Knowing when to stop.

  9. September 5, 2020 10:50 PM

    Did you use masking on these?

    • October 7, 2020 12:49 PM

      Oh no, I never use masking. That would be too painstaking for me. I just paint around the lights :)

  10. September 6, 2020 10:38 AM

    gorgeous work!

  11. Ellie Romelli permalink
    September 7, 2020 4:18 PM

    Your portraits are absolutely fabulous. Not only are they fun to look at, but you can see the character in each face.

  12. Carol Drummond permalink
    September 8, 2020 6:47 PM

    my favorite is the last quote by Mary Cassatt.

  13. September 30, 2020 6:50 PM

    These are great. Do you scan or take photos of your watercolors?

    • October 7, 2020 12:52 PM

      Scan. I photo oils, but watercolors I scan. It’s perfect lighting every time, much easier than setting up for a photo. If you have /
      know photoshop that is.

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