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Henri Degas and His Niece Lucie Degas (The Artist's Uncle and Cousin)

Impressionist painting of seated man, girl with brown, black hues.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • Impressionist painting of seated man, girl with brown, black hues.




Edgar Degas
French, 1834-1917

About this artwork

Edgar Degas was the most subtle portrait painter in the Impressionist group. His portraits, mostly of family members and close friends, were executed primarily in the period from the late 1850s through the 1870s. During frequent visits to Florence and Naples, Degas recorded his Italian relatives with great candor. On one of his last trips to Naples, in the mid-1870s, Degas painted this double portrait of his orphaned first cousin, Lucie, and their uncle Henri, in whose care the girl had recently been placed. In this painting, Degas showed two people, separated by many years in age, who are tentatively accepting the circumstances of their new relationship. Degas, having recently lost his own father and having witnessed other family misfortunes, addressed subjects such as this with awareness and sensitivity.

Areas of thin paint and unresolved details suggest that the painting was never completed. But the spare treatment of the background effectively emphasizes the heads and upper portions of the figures. Their connection is expressed in the similar tilt of their heads and in the black mourning clothes they both wear. Their psychological discomfort is suggested by the contrast of the plain wall behind Lucie and the darker glass-and-wood French door behind Henri, as well as by the curved chair back against which the man sits and on which the girl leans. At once intimate and distant, casual and guarded, these two relatives, and the third relation who paints them from the other side of the paper-laden table, poignantly express the fragility and necessity of family ties.


On View, Gallery 226


Painting and Sculpture of Europe


Hilaire Germain Edgar Degas


Henri Degas and His Niece Lucie Degas (The Artist's Uncle and Cousin)


France (Artist's nationality:)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.



Oil on canvas


99.8 × 119.9 cm (39 1/4 × 47 3/16 in.)

Credit Line

Mr. and Mrs. Lewis Larned Coburn Memorial Collection

Reference Number


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Extended information about this artwork

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