Edgar DEGAS, Mlle Bécat at the Café des Ambassadeurs [Mlle Bécat au Café des Ambassadeurs] Enlarge 1 /1


France 1834 – 1917

Mlle Bécat at the Café des Ambassadeurs [Mlle Bécat au Café des Ambassadeurs] 1877-78 Materials & Technique: prints, planographic lithograph Support: on white wove paper
Edition State: only state
Edition: edition of fifteen

Dimensions: image 20.6 h x 19.4 w cm sheet 33.4 h x 26.6 w cm
Cat Raisonné: Reed and Shapiro 31 / Adhémar 42
Acknowledgement: The Poynton Bequest 2005
Accession No: NGA 2005.949

Edgar Degas is renowned for his portrayal of Parisian life from the 1870s to the 1890s. His scenes of the racetrack, the opera ballet, café-concerts and brothels portray modern life. They became increasingly intimate, informal and radical in their composition and execution.

Mademoiselle Bécat at the Café Ambassadeurs is both an example of Degas’ technical virtuosity and embrace of modernity. Emélie Bécat, a singer, was a well-known figure in Parisian night life.

Mademoiselle Bécat made her debut at the Café Ambassadeurs in 1875 and was a sensation. Degas had previously made drawings and monotypes of her performing. In this lithograph she is shown singing with gusto before an adoring public seated in the dark foreground.

Degas was a collector and a favourite artist of his was the French caricaturist Honoré Daumier. For this lithograph Degas has drawn from the style and technique of Daumier, composing the view from the orchestra pit, lighting the performer from below, scraping back the surface of the inked stone to create the lights (including the spectacular chandelier) and adding crayon to emphasise form.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Ron Radford (ed), Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2008