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Sketches of Figures at a Funeral
Edgar Degas (French, 1834 - 1917)
Watching a procession through Paris's Left Bank in June 1877, Edgar Degas quickly sketched the various characters he saw that day. At the upper left, a hatless priest bends over to the right, while an elderly man with a turned-up collar looks down. Below them a young girl with a wreath in her hair holds a flag, and a man carries a bouquet of flowers. At the right, on a larger scale, a stout woman wearing a mobcap and a fringed shawl faces left. Various overlapping faces fill the corner behind her. In the center floats a man's head topped with a priest's hat--perhaps a self-portrait of the artist.
Once when another artist invited him to go to a café, Degas objected to traveling by horse-drawn cab, saying, "Personally, I don't like cabs. You don't see anyone. That's why I love to ride on the omnibus--you can look at people. We were created to look at one another, weren't we?" For Degas, it was in the simple realities of everyday life that art could be found, not in dramatic tales from history and mythology.