Beer In Art #36: Edgar Degas’ Cafe Concert

Today is the birthday of famed Impressionist artist Edgar Degas. Born in 1834, Degas is considered to be one of the founders of Impressionism, though he himself disdained the term. Though he’s most well-known for his paintings of ballet dancers, women at work and female nudes, I did discover one work he did where there’s beer in the painting. It’s one of his more obscure works, but it made the art world news when it was recently acquired by the Art Institute of Chicago, which is how I know about it, and is entitled the Café-Concert (The Spectators).

Click on the image above for a larger view.

It was painted around 1876-77 and is done in pastels over a monotype on buff wove paper, laid down on a tan card. It’s only 201 x 415 mm (which is about 8 in. x 16 in.).

As described by Jeff Fleischer in Chicago Magazine; “Degas depicts the scene of a crowded concert in brightly colored pastels. The complicated tableau includes details like the man in the center about to spill his beer and a singer visibly warm from the stage lighting.”

The most famous painting Degas did involving drinking was not of beer, but Absinthe. Painted in 1876, L’Absinthe was considered controversial at the time, especially when it was shown in England in 1893. See, for example, The Green Fairy at Absinthe Fever, which about halfway down the page discusses people’s reactions to the painting.


For more about Edgar Degas, you can start at Wikipedia, the Web Museum, or even The ArtCyclopedia has some good links and the Art Archive has another good biography. There are also galleries of his other works at Olga’s Gallery, Painting Here, and Ricci-Art.


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