DEGAS, Edgar
(b. 1834, Paris, d. 1917, Paris)

Madame Camus at the Piano

Oil on canvas, 142 x 95 cm
Private collection

Degas produced many portraits between 1865 and 1870, too, the major ones of which were Thérèse de Gas, Double Portrait, The Collector, Madame Hertel, Duke and Duchess of Morbilli, Jacques Joseph (James) Tissot, Mademoiselle Dihau at the Piano, Madame Camus at the Piano, Portrait of Hortense Valpinçon as a Child.

Conventional as they may be, these portraits highlight both what is characteristic and what is casual in the personality and deportment of the sitter. Although people are caught most of the time in a casual pose expressing the charm of a fleeting mood, formal behaviour breaks through sometimes, as in the Portrait of Madame Camus at the Piano. She was the wife of Doctor Camus, a friend of Manet and Degas and a lover of Japanese art, and she had an excellent reputation as a pianist. The painting still shows the faint influence of Ingres's style, but it also evokes Manet in its refined elegance. In a masterful arrangement, the model sits in a room surrounded by angular shapes. The picture strikes a balance between a personal and an official portrait.