One hundred years ago, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, became the first museum in America to purchase a painting by the Impressionist master Edgar Degas. Racehorses at Longchamp (1871) - now on view in the MFA’s sister museum in Nagoya, Japan - was the first in a remarkable series of gifts and purchases that made Boston’s collection of Degas among the finest in the world.
The Museum’s collection demonstrates the full scope of the artist’s subject matter in a wide variety of media. In his day, Degas was celebrated for his depictions of the Paris Opera ballet and for his animated images of horses and horse races. In his pioneering monotypes, etchings, and lithographs, he explored subject matter such as singers in outdoor cafés, bathers, and the intimate world of Parisian brothels. The sculptures found in the artist’s studio and cast in bronze after his death demonstrate his mastery of form in three dimensions.
Adding to this distinguished group of works, the Museum has acquired one of the artist’s finest portraits, Duchessa di Montejasi with Her Daughters, Elena and Camilla, (above) the haunting image of Degas’s aunt Stéphanie. Painted in Naples in 1876, this magnificent character study reveals his strikingly innovative conception of portraiture.
This major acquisition is on view in the Museum’s Impressionist galleries.