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This artwork, Coastal Landscape at Sunset by Edgar Degas, is currently for sale at Stephen Ongpin Fine Art.
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Edgar Degas, Coastal Landscape at Sunset
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TITLE:  Coastal Landscape at Sunset
ARTIST:  Edgar Degas (French, 1834–1917)
CATEGORY:  Works on Paper (Drawings, Watercolors etc.)
MATERIALS:  Pastel on light brown paper
MARKINGS:  Signed and dated degas / 69 in pencil at the lower left. Stamped with the Degas vente stamp (Lugt 658) in red ink at the lower left.
SIZE:  h: 23.2 x w: 31.6 cm / h: 9.1 x w: 12.4 in
PRICE*:  Contact Gallery for Price
GALLERY:  Stephen Ongpin Fine Art  +44 (0)20 7930 8813  Send Email

The present sheet may be grouped with a series of more than forty pastel studies of landscapes and seascapes, probably done en plein air, drawn by Edgar Degas on the Channel coast in the summer and autumn of 1869. Degas spent much of the summer of 1869 at the village of Beuzeval, near Houlgate and Villers sur Mer on the Normandy coast. He spent his time making pastel drawings along the small stretch of coastline between Villers, Houlgate and Dives-sur-Mer to the southwest. Paul-André Lemoisne, the author of the seminal catalogue raisonné of the artist’s works, noted of these Normandy scenes that ‘As he looks at them, Degas’s keen eye also registers the appearance of the countryside, the pale sea-green shore fringed with foam, the curve of a bank of golden sand, the outline of hills, a velvety meadow, the color of the sky. Later, back in the studio, the artist delights in recreating some of these places from memory, attempting to reproduce the colors and outlines with his sticks of pastel.’ Although until recently regarded by scholars as having been done in Degas’s Paris studio, Richard Kendall has convincingly argued that a number of these 1869 pastels are topographically accurate and depict actual sites on the Normandy coast, and that most – if not all – of these works must have been done on the spot. Kendall has further suggested that the present sheet is a view taken from just southwest of Houlgate, looking towards the resort town of Cabourg in the distance. A note in one of Degas’s notebooks of this period underlines the artist’s close observation of his surroundings: ‘Villers-sur-Mer, sunset, cold and dull orange-pink, whitish green, neutral, sea like a sardine’s back and clearer than the sky…Line of the seashore brown, the first pools of water reflecting the orange, the second reflecting the upper sky; in front, coffee-coloured sand, rather sombre.’

This group of small pastels, characterized by a sense of emptiness and an absence of human figures, were never exhibited in Degas’s lifetime and remained in his studio until his death. Even today, they remain relatively obscure within the context of the artist’s oeuvre. The fact that several of these pastel landscapes are both signed and dated 1869 would suggest that the artist may well have regarded them - despite their relatively small proportions and austere compositions – as finished, independent works. As Kendall has noted of these works, ‘Never exhibited as a group and still generally unknown, these pastels can be counted among the seminal achievements of [Degas’] pre-Impressionist years.’

This delicate landscape was one of a large and important group of paintings and pastels by Degas in the collection of the Parisian amateur Charles Comiot. Apart from the present sheet, Comiot owned at least five other pastel landscapes by Degas from the series done in 1869. As the art critic François Fosca wrote of the landscape pastels in the Comiot collection, ‘They are numerous, because M. Comiot was able to recognize that in this field Degas was no less a master than in the representation of the human body…most were executed by the seashore, and show us flat, deserted beaches, dunes with grasses grey and sparse. From such bare sites, so much lacking in plastic elements, Degas brings forth wonders: isn’t that the mark of a great artist?’ Fosca added that ‘These pastels are quite a bit closer to those of Whistler. Just as the painter of the Nocturnes, Degas withdrew from nature as soon as the sun appeared at its brightest. An ochre-tinted beach and the stifling blue of the sky when the mist covers the sun; Degas, like Whistler, asked for nothing else.’

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