Edgar DegasSeated Dancer© RMN (Musée d'Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski
In both its quality and its diversity, the Musée d'Orsay collection of drawings is unique. A selection of around one hundred works, over a third of which have not been exhibited for over twenty years, gives us an insight into the arrival of Modernity during the Second Empire. This concept spread throughout daily life and the arts. Artists, both well-known and not so well-known, were bound together through close friendships, aesthetic ideas shared in the cafés of Paris, by exhibiting together through art dealers or in the private galleries that were starting to appear, and through visits they made outside the Paris region, to each other’s homes or trips undertaken together. The artist turned into an insatiable spectator, drawing the mores of the time and presenting an explosion of new and unfamiliar images. The viewpoint changed and a fierce desire for realism appeared.
And so the woman, the subject and object of all attention, was no longer seen purely as a goddess or a princess, she was above all a Parisienne, a peasant girl, a wife, a mother... a subject unceasingly observed, studied, loved. In scenes of daily life, women, young and old, aristocrats and bourgeoises, urban, working class women and countrywomen, are portrayed in a fading continuity or in modern life at its harshest.
The drawing techniques reveal the unrestrained experimentation by painters and sculptors: pen, pencil, wash, watercolour and sanguine, as well as very delicate pastels, works so fragile that this is the first time they will leave Paris and the Musée d'Orsay.
Guy Cogeval, Director of the Musée d'Orsay and the Musée de l'Orangerie
Isabelle Julia, general curator, Head of the Graphic Arts department at the Musée d'Orsay