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Between history and modernity: negotiating subjectivity in the early work of Edgar Degas, c. 1854-1870

Kaina, Philippa; (2009) Between history and modernity: negotiating subjectivity in the early work of Edgar Degas, c. 1854-1870. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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This thesis provides a critical reassessment of the early career of Edgar Degas between the years 1854-1870 a period during which the artist had yet to gain any critical recognition or commercial success and was struggling to find the terms of a practice he could pursue with integrity. While Degas' output during these years has, until now, been summarily dismissed by scholars in the field, my dissertation takes this crucial formative period of artistic production seriously. Primacy is given to Degas' historical canvases (together with their related preparatory drawings), which are seen to function as the site upon which the artist negotiated nineteenth-century notions of 'History' and 'Tradition' within the context of an emerging modern self-consciousness. I also examine what is at stake for Degas' own subjectivity here, both in terms of how it is enmeshed within his formal procedures as well as the ways in which it is implicated within the broader historical and artistic transformations taking place at this moment. Notions of the 'in-between' and 'transitional' function as this thesis' overarching conceptual metaphors. Analogous to Degas' artistic travails, they also articulate something critical about the illegibility of the canvases themselves which exist in various states of 'un-finish'. These pictures initiate a series of radical departures from academic precepts of History painting (most notably here its doctrine of Jim). However, they also dramatize something of the precariousness of Degas' subjectivity and artistic identity during these early years at a moment when he was caught between outmoded academic rhetorics and the yet-to-be fully articulated pictorial languages of modernity. Through a detailed exploration of the ways in which Degas' negotiated the terms of his practice amidst the radically shifting parameters of art in the nineteenth century, I seek to reframe what has thus far been understood as a largely frustrated period of productivity in terms of a crucial process of artistic formation.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Between history and modernity: negotiating subjectivity in the early work of Edgar Degas, c. 1854-1870
Identifier: PQ ETD:591512
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest. Third party copyright material has been removed from the ethesis. Images identifying individuals have been redacted or partially redacted to protect their identity.
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of History of Art
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1444210
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