“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” -Edgar Degas
“While Degas was aware of photography from the beginning of his career, he did not take up the medium until 1895, when he embraced it with great enthusiasm. By then, the motifs in his paintings and pastels-dancers, women at their toilette, horses, and even his rare forays into landscape-were established, as were his untraditional viewpoints, lighting effects, and compositions; what was novel was his approach to his materials. Characteristically, he eschewed the accepted standards of photographic practice, the decreed fashions of the portrait studio, and the aesthetics of the “Photo-Club” artist; instead, his technique was driven exclusively by the effect he wished to achieve.
“Degas’s brief but passionate involvement with photography resulted in a small body of fascinating and engaging pictures. Most of his surviving photographs are figure studies, self-portraits, and portraits of his intimate circle of friends-the families of Ludovic Halévy, Stéphane Mallarmé, Henry Lerolle, Auguste Renoir, Jacques-Emile Blanche, and others-in settings suggestive of realms more psychological than physical. In this magical image-one of Degas’s finest-the artist himself seems to lean back deep in thought, conjuring up an image of youthful feminine grace in the form of the white-clad Lerolle daughters.” –Metropolitan Museum of Art