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Café-Concert Singer

Café-Concert Singer, c. 1877

Edgar Degas
French, 1834-1917
Pastel on laid paper
6-3/8 x 4-3/4 in. (16.2 x 12.1 cm)
Norton Simon Art Foundation
© Norton Simon Art Foundation

Not on View

In the late 1870s Degas became fascinated by concert hall singers, eventually producing more than sixty pictures representing these boisterous, working-class women as they performed at outdoor taverns under glowing globes of artificial light. The close-up view in this diminutive but vibrantly-hued pastel positions us in the audience, and tantalizingly close to the entertainer herself, a singer tentatively identified as Victorine Demay who worked at venues including the Concert Parisien, the Eldorado, and the Alcazar d’Été through the 1880s. Degas portrayed Demay several times, and appears to have been captivated by her expressive gestures and commanding stage presence, which one contemporary described as sending a “frisson of pleasure through the crowd.”

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