EDGAR DEGAS | Madamoiselle Dembowska, circa 1858 - 1859 | Black crayon drawing on plum colored paper
EDGAR DEGAS | Madamoiselle Dembowska, circa 1858 - 1859 | Black crayon drawing on plum colored paper

The Muscarelle Museum of Art is pleased to present Edgar Degas: The Private Impressionist – Works on Paper by the Artist and His Circle on view February 12 to May 29, 2022. This extraordinary exhibition features works by the celebrated artist and his peers, providing an in-depth examination into Degas’ methods and techniques. Muscarelle Explorations: Degas includes lectures, live drawing workshops, a concert, a film screening, and a book club discussion. This series will give participants a special insight into the exhibition Edgar Degas: The Private Impressionist and deepen their understanding of this enigmatic artist.

Exhibition organized by Landau Traveling Exhibitions, Los Angeles, CA | www.a-r-t.com in association with Denenberg Fine Arts, West Hollywood, CA

Muscarelle Explorations: Degas is made possible by our partner, The Williamsburg Landing. 


Enjoy a series of lectures held at the Muscarelle Museum of Art.

All of the lectures in this series will be in person and free with registration.

February 24 | 6 PM
Chasing Degas: My Four Decades Collecting the Artist and His Circle
Robert Flynn Johnson, Curator emeritus of the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Watch Now

Robert Flynn Johnson, a collector and former curator, will discuss his passion for Degas and his approach to collecting the works featured in Edgar Degas: The Private Impressionist exhibition. Johnson notes that it is “the ability to be curious that is the crucial element in the makeup of a true collector —the ability to ask questions, to learn, and to get answers regarding works of art that catch your eye and move your emotions.”

March 3 | 6 PM
Degas Before Degas: A Printmaker’s Intriguing Early Paintings
Margaret MacNamidhe, Ph.D., Adjunct Associate Professor at School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Watch Now

Bright pastel hatched in like slanting rain; the crook of an elbow, the side of a face swiped in by a rag applied to paper—techniques from the worlds of drawing and printmaking gave Degas the scenes of keyhole realism taken as most characteristic of his work. But Degas once stood foursquare before an easel, trying for a more traditional fullness of view and composition. In his early days he applied an oil painting brush to primed canvas or paper, but not always confidently, and not always conclusively. In fact, it is as though Degas stepped forever away from some of his earlier paintings, leaving figures eternally suspended or only partly rendered. In this lecture, Margaret MacNamidhe takes a look at this doubting version of Degas through a return to works from the beginning of this artist’s storied career.

May 4 | 6 PM
Degas’ Dust
Michelle Foa, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Art History, Tulane University

Due to the research presented being included in a forthcoming publication, so recording is available for this lecture.

Described by a close friend as “an artisan passionate about all the means of his art,” Degas’ body of work reflects a sustained fascination with material and technical experimentation. Michelle Foa’s lecture will shed new light on the artist’s persistent engagement with an unusual array of media and processes over the course of his career, particularly his innovative use of pastel. Careful examination of his pictures and of friends’ accounts of his studio and working processes demonstrates his remarkable use of media to depict his subjects in entirely new ways and to expand the limits of pictorial representation. Degas’ “restless searches for new procedures,” as one critic put it, and his constant testing of the behaviors and capacities of his media and tools, reveal an artist for whom the life of matter and the matter of art were central to the meaning of his pictures.

EDGAR DEGAS | Edgar Degas: Self-Portrait, 1857 | Etching and drypoint, from the canceled plate
EDGAR DEGAS & GEORGE W. THORNLEY | La Chanteuse, circa 1888 - 1889 | Lithograph with Chine applique

Film Screening

April 7 | 6 PM (in person)
EXHIBITION ON SCREEN | Degas: Passion for Perfection
Directed by David Bickerstaff

(Run time: 85 minutes)

On the occasion of 100 years since the death of Edgar Degas, in 2017, the Fitzwilliam Museum
in Cambridge organized an exhibition from their extensive holdings of works in commemoration of the celebrated artist. This film provides exclusive access to view rare and diverse works in the Fitzwilliam collection and provides insights into the fascinating story of Degas’ pursuit for perfection through both experimentation with new techniques and through lessons he learned from studying past masters. Using written accounts by friends and commentators, and the narration of letters written by Degas himself, this film reveals a more complex truth behind one of the most influential French artists of the late 19th century and serves as an exploration of the complex workings of Degas’ artistic mind.

Music in the Galleries

April 27 | 7 PM (in person)
The William & Mary Gallery Players

Watch Now

The William & Mary Gallery Players presented a concert to celebrate the musical tastes and passions of Edgar Degas. String ensemble works by Claude Debussy, Donizetti, Gluck, and Mozart will be featured in this homage to this enigmatic artist. These musical compositions represent the work of a fellow Impressionist, as well as Degas’ love for grand style opera and 18th-century composers.

Book Club

May 25 | 6 PM (virtual)
Picasso Looks at Degas

(Published by the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute and the Museu Picasso, Barcelona, 2010)


Please join us for a virtual book club co-hosted by David Brashear, Museum Director, and Charles Palermo, Professor of Art History at William & Mary. Our featured book presents Pablo Picasso’s direct responses to Edgar Degas’ works, as well as more conceptual and challenging affinities between their individual bodies of work. Illustrated essays explore the artists’ parallel interests in modern urban life, ballet dancers, activities such as bathing and combing the hair, photography, and the challenges of sculpture. The book also provides the first extended analysis of Picasso’s engagement with Degas’ art in his final years, when he acquired several of the French artist’s brothel monotypes and reworked some of them in his own prints.


Join Steve Prince at the Muscarelle Museum of Art for this series of in person workshops!

February 19 | 5 – 8 PM
Copying with Confidence

Artists through the ages have copied works of the masters to improve their own techniques, methods and compositions. Participants in this class will select a work of art that inspires and interests them from our special exhibition Edgar Degas: The Private Impressionist. All levels will improve their drawing through close observation and individualized instruction using provided sketchbooks and graphite pencils.

March 30 | 5 – 8 PM
Period Portraits

Connect to the past through guided instruction on the techniques and challenges of costumed figure drawing. Participants will be inspired by works by Degas and his contemporaries in the galleries and move to close observation of live models in period dress seated in the gallery. Open to all levels, this workshop will focus on graphite portrait drawing with materials included.

April 4 | 5 – 8 PM

Dancing with Degas

Join us for a graphite drawing class in celebration of Degas and the art of dance. Participants will learn to capture dynamic moves of live dancers in the gallery through basic drawing instruction. Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned artist looking to improve your drawing skills, this workshop caters to all levels and all materials will be provided.

WORKSHOP FEE: Muscarelle Members, W&M Staff, Faculty and Students: $10 Non-Members: $25