The Impressionists clearly didn't believe in "all work and no play." At least not in depicting it. We've seen their subjects picnicking, shopping, strolling, and attending balls, circuses, and the opera, among other leisure activities. But not engaging in a lot of work. Until now. Degas's Portraits at the Stock Exchange depicts bankers and investors furtively whispering tips and speculations on the street in front of the Bourse, the Parisian stock exchange.
And what a uniform they're wearing. We're looking at a sea of almost indistinguishable top hats and sack coats. As you look closely, you notice small differences—slight variations in color, small differences in collars—but they're a rather homogeneous group. Which definitely spoke to the work they were doing. Their plain, sober clothing emphasized their practicality and respectability. These men clearly prioritized professional identity over a more personal one.
Most of the men are anonymous, but we do know that the man in the middle with the beard is the then thirty-four-year-old financier Ernest May. May was a collector and admirer of Degas's work, and the painting may in fact be commenting on the idea that for businessmen like May, engagement with the art world represented another kind of speculative enterprise.
Image Credit: Edgar Degas. Portraits at the Stock Exchange, 1878–79. Musée d'Orsay, Paris, bequest subject to usufruct in 1923 by Ernest May, RF 2444.
12 hours 2 min ago The Art Institute of Chicago NOW OPEN—Humanism + Dynamite = The Soviet Photomontages of Aleksandr Zhitomirsky
The first exhibition in the post-Soviet world devoted to leading political artist Aleksandr Zhitomirsky offers a captivating portrayal of a satirist and loyal citizen who inventively furthered his country’s official causes across a tumultuous half-century.
13 hours 54 min ago The Art Institute of Chicago CLOSING SOON—Icelandic artist/musician Ragnar Kjartansson’s intensely durational works often manifest a rare synthesis of pathos and humor.
A Lot of Sorrow is both a music video and extended concert film, in which The National performs its ballad “Sorrow” on repeat for six hours. See the song take on new layers of meaning as the hours pass and fatigue sets in.
Closing October 16—http://bit.ly/2du3GXh
3 days 9 hours ago The Art Institute of Chicago Congratulations to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture on their grand opening this weekend. The building, designed by architect David Adjaye, is a truly historic addition to the National Mall in Washington D.C. #APeoplesJourney #MakingHistory